Oliver Vernon “Sprung”
Created with acrylic and ink on paper, canvas, and wood, Vernon’s small-, medium-, and large-format works depict the artist’s colorful vision of the cosmos, where nature and culture collide (or cooperate) in the creation (or destruction) of the universe. Any questions of origin or outcome are overpowered by the sheer dynamism of Vernon’s images: a balletic interplay of protoplasm, cultural signs, geometric abstraction, and bravura brush-work.
In this new body of work inspired by the landscape of Northern California (produced since Vernon relocated his studio from Brooklyn), elements of the local environment—hills, forests, rivers, wide open sky—ground the artist’s cosmic wanderings in a new sense of place. This shift has intensified both the realist and abstract aspects of his work. Cues from the landscape serve as recognizable points of departure for the artist’s abstract explorations of space and pattern, including his twisting, idiosyncratic rendering of planar dimensions. Vernon uploads a new inventory of forms and techniques into these dynamic paintings, stacking layers of improvisation one upon another.
Minyon, for example, takes a hawk’s-eye view of lovely Grass Valley, swooping down through painterly passages of lozenge shapes in brown and blue (abstractions of earth and water) and a cascading series of staircases (à la M.C. Escher). Sprungworks from the lowlands upward, building layer on layer of graphic patterns and architectural elements interspersed with rolling hills, fir trees, gushing rivers, and country roads—an idealized merger of the natural and “man-made” environment (both built and merely imagined). In the tour-de-force Teepee, a river squall tosses an upward spiral of patterns, architectural elements, floral motifs, graphic designs, and waterspouts, all rendered in jagged planes of shifting perspective.
As always in Vernon’s work, the visual transitions between elements and their interrelationship take greater importance over specific details, and Vernon dispenses with any fixed position in the landscape or its realist depiction. His quirky combinations of organic, mechanical, cosmological, and cultural elements teem with lively intelligence. Their intuitive grasp of the relationship between energy and matter, thought and action, also references wide segments of cultural production, including Native American art forms, contemporary Japanese graphic design, 20th century Surrealism, and New York School abstract painting. Vernon’s “cosmos” creates a fluid atmosphere where cultural material moves in and out of focus, allowing the artist to explore the “deconstruction and reconstruction of visual space.”
James Roper “All and Nothing”
Inspired by the Baroque masters, Roper’s acrylic-on-canvas paintings thoroughly update the impulse to decoration and excess. Amid images of billowing cloud formations and voluminous folds of fabric, the artist finds contemporary correlations across multiple disciplines, from neuroscience and quantum physics, to Hollywood blockbusters and haute couture, to Japanese Anime and street art. In all of his work, eye-popping color and crisp pattern reference flights of fancy or hallucination, and any pictorial “reality,” whether heightened or abstracted, is as much a figment of neurological processes as aesthetic phenomena.
In Epistemic Constraint, for example, colorful folds of fabric, gray smoke, and a golden orb triangulate in the center of the canvas, while vortices of architectural elements, black spirals, and blue sky tug at the image and eye from the outer edges. Through the process of pulling apart and reconfiguring these details, Roper connects directly to the rudimentary mechanisms of seeing. By isolating then collaging bits of graphic design and decorative flourishes, Roper intensifies these visual triggers, causing a sort of neurological hyperactivity, or “peak shift,” to borrow a term from neuroaesthetic theory. In this sensory-cognitive process, the viewer makes visual sense of each composition by shifting, along with the painting, from the abstract to the figurative and back again.
The “characters” depicted in Roper’s Exvoluta series embody deity-like forms influenced by the imagery of Hindu gods, Christian saints, and comic-book Superheroes, all rendered in glorious material excess beyond the reach of the natural. In Exvoluta Rush, denatured forms entwine within an explosion of graphic patterns, with figurative fragments suggesting Captain America and an Anime bikini babe. Here and elsewhere, the artist draws comparisons between the aesthetics of modern consumerism and devotional iconography, emphasizing parallels in the human capacity for both ecstasy and excess—the titular “all and nothing.”
Roper’s use of the “peak shift” effect jolts the viewer, reawakening one to the inherent intensity of experiencing the physical world through the senses. Conversely, the artist toys, like Baroque artists of the past, with the idea that intensity holds the potential for distortion, an overwhelming or numbing of the senses, or a kind of escapism leading to the “death of affect”—Roper’s work explores this dichotomy.
For more information, please visit www.joshualinergallery.com, or contact Tim Strazza at 212.244.7415