The work of Stefanie Gutheil is a wonderful mess. Her current exhibit at the Mike Weiss gallery has the atmosphere of the precise moment a party becomes a riot. Gutheil’s paintings incorporate fleshy globs of oil and acrylic paint, fabric, glitter, hair, and fur. The seemingly turbid materials match the paintings’ libidinous subject matter. Even some of the paintings frames only seem to exist in order to be defied – cat’s tails, pants, hats all push past gilded frames and off the canvas. In what she portrays and how she portrays it, Gutheil’s work pinpoints a curious place precisely between fun and horror – the moment before the last finger loses its grip.
The story of Meghan Howland‘s oil paintings are quiet like a secret. Her work captures understated dreamy scenes. A confusion of birds, hidden faces, a scarf that may or may not be choking its wearer – her work at once is lighthearted and hints at a darker undercurrent.
Her gallery relates, “Her paintings are often dreamlike, and yet carry a weight of something that is slightly more dissonant. The question of whether something is safe or dangerous, loving or hateful, is often unexplained in her work.”
A snapshot quality to the image, fill flash like lighting, lends the paintings the characteristic of a caught instant. However, her painterly hand stretches the moment. While definitely working a contemporary aesthetic, Howland’s paintings are at times reminiscent of Degas’ style and palette.
Though the work of Gabriel Pionkowski may be constructed like a sculpture, he is definitely a painter. Pionkowski meticulously takes apart his canvases and painstakingly hand paints each individual thread. Then, using a loom, he reweaves the thread into a canvas once again. Painters have deconstructed and reconstructed the concepts of painting for ages. Pionkowski, however does this in literal sense. His process of destruction and recreation reveals the literal and theoretical structure behind art and painting. The reconstructed pieces reveal the typically hidden supports of the canvas while creating a kind of absolute abstraction.
New Levels, the title of John Chae‘s new series of work, captures its dual nature succinctly. While the phrase New Levels may partly refer to higher levels of perception or consciousness, you may likely have had the same first impression as I did: video games. Chae’s paintings use both elements of fine art history and throw-away pop culture imagery – he visually cites Magritte and Escher alongside manga artists. Chae moves beyond the highbrow/lowbrow juxtaposition of our pop-art grandparents. Rather, his paintings are for and from a generation that doesn’t consume images as much as it puts them to use as a recyclable tool of self-expression.
The portraits of Marcus Cain fall somewhere between abstract and figurative. His faces appear to be in the process of solidifying, perhaps alluding to the identity they express.
Cain says, “I am currently interested in a particulate view of the human condition, acts of transformation, and shifting identities….My hope is to capture the figure in a transformative, in-between state.”
Cain also uses processes that allude to past styles such as pointillism and abstract expressionism. His nearly eerie portraits often dominated by prominent staring eyes, however, are reminiscent of pulp depictions of phantoms and apparitions.
Artist Jeremy Geddes paints with considerable skill. His highly detailed oil paintings depict surreal, often lonely scenes. Many of his panels picture a lone astronaut in an empty urban landscape. Its unclear whether his subjects are falling or floating, in trouble or asleep. Geddes communicates the haunting silence of each scene as effectively as textures and light. He clearly has an ease of technique and personal aesthetic.
Juan Travieso‘s work is a sort of contemporary nature painting. His paintings of monkeys, bears, birds, seem to be falling apart into garbled digital information. Travieso appears to be capturing the animals a moment before they degenerate into unintelligible pixels of color. This could reflect an environment that is falling apart despite (or perhaps because of) constant technological progress. Travieso captures a sense of urgency in the paintings, an irretrievable moment soon to pass.
Artist Xochi Solis‘ work combines painting with collage into smartly layered pieces. Rather than spreading the elements throughout the composition, Solis places them all at the center. She layers each piece on the on top of the one before it, revealing only pieces of found images or painterly strokes. The round images almost appear cellular though still resisting easy interpretation or identification. The Austin, Texas based artist’s materials range from acrylic and oil paint to found images and acetate.