Cycles of Life in the Lower East Side

Ted Barr, wounded bird dallas

Egg-before conception
Egg-before conception

Breaking the mold of the sort of artworks shown at Dacia gallery, Ted Barr’s “Cycle of Life” show is full of abstract paintings and is anything but the figurative artworks for which the gallery is known. Also influenced by action paintings, Ted’s work is intriguing to the average viewer as far as the mystery of the artist’s process. Standing before the larger than life canvases, one can’t help but to reflect on the vibrantly colored smears and astral shapes portrayed.

Some paintings seem sexual, others ethereal and some are hard to tell which of the two they resemble most. This happens to be the point of it all when it comes to Ted Barr. He is suggesting that it is one in the same, that us humans are made up of the same stuff that makes up the galaxy and in turn the universe. Or in his own words ” As above, so below”. He paints galaxies and supernovas based off of telescope images and embryos and cellular structures based off of microscope images, uniting the greatness above and beyond with the greatness within. His use of color is based on philosophies of energy and extensive research done by the artist himself, obtained using only natural, non-synthetic materials. In his own words, he has studied “the meaning of colors as expression of different levels of energy”.

Focusing on subjects beyond the scope of human understanding thus far, subjects that people have been trying to explain (to no avail) for millennia like the origin of life and the mystery of deep space, the works of Ted Barr are not terrestrial. Instead they come from imperceptible geographic spaces like galaxies and embryos.

Ted Barr, galaxy embryo
Ted Barr, galaxy embryo

The main ingredient referenced in the works of Ted Barr is tar. “Barr has developed the multi-layered tar technique which he teaches in workshops around the world. The technique is based on multiple layers using gesso, chalk, pigment, tar, oil colors, acrylic, and lacquer.” Gesso is made from gypsum which is a natural material widely mined, of which one form, called alabaster, has been used for millennia to make sculptures in ancient Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia, the Byzantine Empire and Medieval England. A student of religions and ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Barr’s use of material is a key part of what makes the artworks so special today. Using only natural materials from this earth, Barr dresses his canvases up with materials once used to preserve wooden ships back in the days of the ancient Greeks. I imagine his pursuit of the perfect natural pigment to properly achieve the color that he desires would be not entirely dissimilar to someone pursuing the same thing in 1200 BC. Foraging for pigments from extracted insect secretion or cow urine from a cow that has been fed only mango leaves, for example, the artist searches in order to create the appropriate yellows or purples to depict his stellar formations. Another reference to ancient Egypt, the artists signature is a reoccurring hieroglyphic symbol based on the Egyptian Ankh symbol, called DE for Dual Eternity. A keen eye will pick up on this symbol in almost every painting, though it is not immediately apparent. One will also notice other recurring themes in the works such as the spiral shape, the eyes, and birds. Barr may have come to making art as a way of experiencing these grand ideas through expression. This would seem a proper outlet for the frustration one must feel in the face of such great questions. Perhaps reaching out blindly through the dark tunnel of universal mysteries is a helpful way to reach some sort of peace and to create enjoyable artworks for both the artist and the viewer.

Article by Nick Rogers

Nick Rogers

Nick Rogers

Nick Rogers is a writer and independent curator living in New York City. He attended University of Connecticut for English and Art History.

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