A destabilized neon grid takes center stage in “Topsy-Turvy” at Lesley Heller. A solo exhibition of paintings by artist Jeff Way, works on view mine a range of influences spanning from German Expressionism to Martha Graham, Western painter George Catlin and Robert Goldwater’s African art scholarship.
Drawing experience from art history studies at the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU and encounters and collaborations with artists such as Elijah Pierce and Frank Owen, Way deftly absorbs this myriad of influences into his practice to produce these fascinating yet disorienting compositions. Merging abstraction with stylized figuration, the stretched faces and rippling fabrics comprising Jeff Way’s “Grid Heads” and “Topsy-Turvy” series indicate a process-based practice that has keenly matured.
In “Topsy-Turvy,” paintings by Way feature contorted, neon-colored masks flanked by the warped fabrics. Way constructs these scenarios in a process based on distortions created by Xerox-ing masks on gridded fabric, producing a printed image that combines surrealist abstract and figurative elements. The artist plays with ideas of real and constructed space, traversing the picture plane with organic lines that approximate yet distort the geometric patterns captured in these compositions. Way’s final paintings derive from a practiced, careful manipulation of technology made to reproduce images: he exerts the artist’s trained eye onto images generated by mechanical processes of modern technology. His paintings combine color and shadow, order and chaos into soaring Jazz improvisations on canvas.
Elusive hints of movement and distorted visages form the leitmotif of Jeff Way’s paintings in “Topsy-Turvy”: colorfully disorienting artworks befitting a disorienting time in contemporary culture. “Topsy-Turvy” is on view through August 17th at Lesley Hellery (54 Orchard Street.)