Douglas Crimp speculates in his landmark essay “The End of Painting” on the potentiality of painting to maintain its status as a relevant medium in the contemporary era. A searching look at painting’s relative importance during the rise of new media, Crimp comes to the conclusion that “painting has an essence and that essence is illusion, the capacity to materialize images rendered up by the boundless human imagination… painting is, above all, human.”
The overwhelming majority of artworks on view in Something are paintings. The works evoke illusory and imaginative revisions of reality, manifesting curator Noah Becker’s vision to highlight playful ambiguity in contemporary art trends. Becker explains about the title, Something: “It’s a bit Warholian to use a word like that as a starting point…for an epic group show. Words are pop art due to words being universal symbols. The idea of things being universal and understood instantly…how does one express it in their art?”
Wandering the rooms of large scale paintings and mixed media works, alternately politely framed or hung from alligator clips in fits of punk rock rebellion, new surprises await around every turn. The twenty-six works adapt Pop reproduction, bright abstraction, and text-based ruminations on process art from a personal perspective. Three particularly imaginative works stand out: Something to Talk About by Irena Jurek, The Perfect Storm (I Can’t Go Outside) by Jason McLean, and Organic Illusions by Marcus Jansen, all dated 2015. These pieces contain varying levels of figuration, juxtaposing text, decadent materiality and lush tonal variation.
Something to Talk About by Irena Jurek captures movement and motion with gusto. Acrylic and glitter mingle among a group of anthropomorphic felines, a saucy and sassy romp through a fantastic mirage. The flatness of the cartoon imagery is augmented by the whimsical blend of mixed media. It’s impossible to capture the hypnotizing materialism of this piece in a flat image; only by visiting can you witness the broad display of materials in this work. McLean’s The Perfect Storm cleverly externalizes the artist’s process in a bright conceptual melee. Mixed media on archival paper, the colorful blend of internal and external subject matter makes for a cerebral and visually stimulating work. Jansen’s Organic Illusions combine impressionist landscape imagery with sinister figuration: presence and absence intertwine, creating a disorienting reflection within a peaceful, harmonious color spectrum.
Becker’s exhibit plunges deeply and unapologetically into the multitudinous mix of contemporary art with a heavy focus on painting, divulging the playful but simultaneously unafraid to capture whimsy alongside the grotesque and self-reflexive vibes present in the art of today. Throughout it all, painting remains a key indicator: whether embracing pop or abstraction, the human element of tinkering, adjusting and layering is inescapable. In the carefully blended cocktail of artistic revelry, captivating subject matter shares air time with colorful patterns and textured layers. Text and color were prime considerations for Becker in conceiving this exhibit, stating “It was through color that I found direction. Bright color is good in New York–a vacation for the soul.” This is one vacation you’ll be in no hurry to leave from.
Something is curated by Noah Becker of Whitehot Magazine and comprised of 27 works by 20 artists. The show is on view at Berry Campbell through February 6, 2016.
Writing by Audra Lambert
Photographs by Audra Lambert and the gallery
Video by Odelle Abney
] Crimp, Douglas. “The End of Painting.” October, vol. xiv, Spring 1981, pp. 69-86 (75).