We are living in a time of political and social unrest. We are living in a time when technology, apps, and social media are continually dividing our attention. Contemporary art is using various approaches to address these issues. The predominating trend is that art must be loud, disrupting, and engage by means of provocation to be heard. But sometimes, it’s the subtle work that has the most to say.
For his second solo show COME OUT 2 SHOW THEM at Lichtundfire in the Lower East Side, New York-based artist Christopher Stout created a series of abstract minimalist paintings informed by the traditions of Western Reductivistism and the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. The paintings were made using sanded cylindrical and rectangular shaped molds, which were then mounted on a Belgian linen covered board. By reducing concept to a simple idea and aesthetics to basic geometric shapes while introducing an ancient Japanese belief that beauty exists in imperfection, Stout creates a visual language that is timely, critical, and rich with texture.
Some of the works on view standout because they are enclosed in a plexiglass box. Stout refers to the box as a “veil” and had each custom made. A glass case at a museum indicates that the art object inside is especially important and of great value. While in a wedding ceremony, a bride’s veil symbolizes her precious virginity. Similarly, looking at COME OUT 2 SHOW THEM 1, which presents 4 molded plaster cylinders on a plaster “monument base” behind a “veil,” we as viewers are asked to pause and consider the enclosed painting with a deeper interest.
Repetition of geometric forms in the work is rooted in minimalism. Upon closer inspection, elements of wabi-sabi, defined as “a concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics constituting of a world view on the acceptance of transience and imperfection” become clear. The painting To do those things which are not convenient 2 presents a rectangular plaster mold on a Belgian linen covered square board. The rectangle sits slightly off center. Varying in thickness, a finish of oil pigment and acrylic resin covers the uneven surface. By rejecting any need for perfection, Stout creates a work that exists in a state of pure, raw beauty.
The liberation of Paris is the most complex work in the show. It presents three individual paintings, or panels, in vertical alignment and contained within a white “veil” frame. Again, we are given an impression that the contained items are significant. Stout saw a similar presentation of art objects in a Bauhaus exhibition. The square panels are divided by a thin rectangular mold and vary in appearance: the top panel is most consistent in white color and finish; the middle panel has an uneven surface with an upper section of a muddied white hue, and lower section of dark brown; the bottom panel is white, but appears timeworn when compared to the other too. It’s as if the work as a whole illustrates the trajectory of an event with each panel representing the beginning, middle, and end.
The works hang within wide, rectangular bands, or holding shapes, that have been painted around the circumference of the gallery. Rendered in colors Japanese peach and gray, they are soft, calm, and pleasing to the eye. Stout was thinking about how these colors evoke a quiet, yet emotional period during early spring just before the season goes into full bloom.
We don’t have to look deep to see humans’ desire for immediacy and perfection. It’s as simple as taking a selfie, running it through a flattering filter, and posting it to Instagram. Stout’s work exposes how such daily practices could have dire consequences, eliminating all sense of individualism and human connection in the world.
Christopher Stout: COME OUT 2 SHOW THEM at Lichtundfire gallery
April 22- May 26, 2017
175 Rivington Street, NY NY 10002