A valve is opened and thousands of liquid particles of paint are rapidly forced from a sealed pressurized container, emerging as a fine mist. Spray!, a group exhibition that examines artists who have embraced the invention of aerosol spray paint in making art. This cross-generational group of artists includes pioneers of the technique as well as a vibrant new generation of painters. Imbued with an ethereal quality, these works celebrate spray paint’s ability to create atmospheric layers that seem to extend beyond the frame. As spontaneity coexists with restraint, atomized contours of spray provide an immediate record of a single moment of gesture and action.
Acting as the historical anchor to this exhibition is David Smith’s “Untitled” 1963 drawing. Using commercial spray enamel as early as the mid 1950’s, almost immediately following its introduction, Smith stencils the outlines of objects onto paper, reversing the solidity of his sculpture by offering an image of absence. Smith’s use of negative space is echoed by Kusama’s 1978 ghostly outline of a fishing net. Color Field painter Jules Olitski’s 1972 work exploits the enveloping mist effect of this industrial application of paint. Dan Christensen’s 9 x 11 foot Pavo from 1968 records the immediacy and physicality of spraying as an artistic gesture. A large canvas by German painter Katharina Grosse, known for site-specific installations saturated with sprayed color, evokes burning flames while Robert Moskowitz and Sterling Ruby use black spray paint to more directly reference smoke saturated skies. In contrast, Stephen Prina emphasizes spray paint’s ability to create a uniform, uninterrupted surface. Works by Keltie Ferris, Jacqueline Humphries and Rosy Keyser chronicle the gestural freedom that aerosol spray enables and the intuitive action implicit in its application.