Gabrielle Bakker is hands-down one of the most skilled painters working today. Formally trained at Yale University, Bakker has the ability to not just reference the great masters of the 19th and 20th Centuries, but also reinterpret their visions through her own unique filter of execution — all while hiding subliminal messages and symbols into each and every painting she creates. You don’t have to look closely at Gabrielle’s paintings, but you’ll want to, since Gabrielle is herself a master of not only skill, but subtext.
Jimmy Baker was featured on B/D in 2009 back when his work consisted mainly of realistically rendered portraits. Since then, his paintings have dramatically changed and, as of recently, moved away from direct representation – from photorealistic landscapes on slick resin coated surfaces from 2010-2011, to abstract figuration using oil and UV ink on canvas.
Baker draws from various contemporary media, mashing news, government conspiracies and political events with celebrity and social media dribble. His process of creating “synthesized content” is researched and extremely labor intensive; as described in an interview with Cincinnati Magazine:
“…you paint a rendering of a digitized sketch, then print a digital image over the painting, then paint the digital print that’s on top of the painting that is itself a version of the original digital image.”
His process sounds rigid, and induces one to envision a cold, obsessively constructed piece, but improvised, thick, painterly strokes contradict this notion.
The contents of the work appear identifiable in parts, but attempts to mentally construct from them a whole proves difficult due to the pieces’ alternating, detailed layers; the fleeting glimpse of recognition compels one to further inquiry.
Until recently I was unfamiliar with the artist Alex Ebstein, but I am glad to have rectified my lack of awareness. There is an honesty to Ebstein’s work that I find readily engaging. The use of yarn or string in an artist’s practice can often shift the aesthetic towards a decidedly crafty end result, but Ebstein manages to use the material with such purpose that it might as well be a drawn line in an architectural blue print. The effectiveness of the work hinges on her ability to merge direct compositional tactics with a more playful approach to the selected materials. Ebstein’s use of string also elevates the intentionality of her mark marking, and then quickly reasserts itself as a method of creating illusory depth in what would otherwise be relatively flat pieces. Taught angular moments combined with purposefully relaxed textures start a visual conversation that I am more than happy to participate in.
I could have just included the ‘eye chart’ pieces because I found them extremely aesthetically pleasing, but the back-story provides a bit of insight that I think most would enjoy. Think of it as a ‘Director’s Commentary’ for the work. Courtesy of Miss Ebstein, “…then for the eye chart pieces. They are more of a weird reflection on (and obsession with) eyesight and my existing eye problems that force me to visit the doctor every month. I’ve had four eye surgeries in three years… I am always nervously checking my vision against things, one eye at a time, so these drawings were kind of my own dark humored joke about being an artist and constantly worrying about my vision.” I am of the belief that ‘going blind’ is one of (if not) the most terrifying things any artist could imagine, and I appreciate the candor with which she addresses what could be an immobilizing reality to those with a more pessimistic outlook on life. Ebstein will be starting grad school this fall, and I am eager to see how this focused environment will affect her work. I also encourage anyone interested in contemporary art to check out the consistently interesting programming at Nudashank – a gallery she co-runs with Seth Adelsberger in the Baltimore area.
Two of my favorite upcoming artists, Timothy Bergstrom & Denise Kupferschmidt recently opened up solo shows respectively @ Halsey McKay in East Hapmton. Tim brings a new suite of his gluey material paintings that visually imitate sounds, while Kupferschmidt shows a series of studies surrounding a sculptural installation, as well as a lovely mural. Good stuff, more after the jump.
Los Angeles has always held a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans, but for most it exists in an almost fictional capacity. Hollywood isn’t a real place – it’s a postcard, a huge sign on the side of a mountain bracketed with strategically placed palm tree silhouettes. Certainly not a place to call home, but for artist Justin John Greene that’s exactly what it is. Hollywood is a part of his heritage, and the work reflects that. Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Greene’s work is strongly imbued with the history of the most romanticized industry in American culture. In his most recent solo show at Actual Size (an exhibition space he co-runs in the Chinatown gallery district of east L.A.) the influence of the film industry is in full focus. You Oughta Be In Pictures is a comprehensive installation that utilizes painting, sculpture, and video to create a truly immersive experience for the viewer. Installation may seem like a bit of a leap from Greene’s primarily two dimensional practice, but a closer look into the artist’s process bridges the gap seamlessly. His work is a distinctly enjoyable blend of sly historical references, direct compositional tactics, and cleverly applied humor. If you have the opportunity to see the work in person I strongly encourage you to do so.
With a display of dominating opulence, feminine vice, and diamond dust, Lauren Gibbes’s paintings masterfully deconstruct traditional romantic narratives and flourish as examples of modern Rococo. Born in the south and currently working out of Ashville, NC, Gibbes draws influence from beauty pageants, magazine ads, exhibitions of decadence, and the legacy of southern charm and chivalry. Her work is both beautiful and confrontational. Lauren Gibbes is represented by Galeria Bickar.
Baltimore-based artist, Dan Everett, has a great body of work that really packs in a detailed glimpse into the artist’s comedically strange mind. With inspiration coming form Indian miniatures and Buddhist Mandalas, Everett’s pieces feature bizarre characters that are born from a stream-of-conscience making process. As a way to give back to the city he works in, Everett displays his work throughout the town by hanging them on abandoned buildings. We’ve got a great selection posted here, but be sure to take a peak at his portfolio site.
In Jessica Langley‘s artwork, the staid landscape genre is revivified through jokes, ha-has, and a reworking of the conceptual apparatus attached to depicting the environment. Langley, a adjunct associate professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, creates new avenues at the margins of “landscape,” by interrogating its space in the human imagination rather than in its physical fact. For instance, in the series Outfitters, Langley explores the troubling conflation of killing nature with loving nature by using the brand names of hunting apparel companies like “Real Tree,” “Open Country,” and “Forever Wild” as edifying doses of black humor. In The Awwand Make CATopia Real (with Ben Kingsley) series, Langley uses kit-kats as a method to defuse all that modernist baggage that accompanies human quests for utopia. But what is CATopia? Extensive networks of imposing cat towers to play on? Free nip for all? It’s unclear, but Langley compels us to consider it worth purrsuing.
Langley is the first artist participating in Skylab Gallery‘s new artist-in-residence program in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Her exhibition at Skylab opens at the end of May 2012. Until then, view more of her work after the jump.