When walking into Gerben Mulder's studio, you are first hit with all sorts of smells mingled with oil, smoke and other unrecognizable yet familiar substances. Your eyes wander to a corner of the room where a table stands filled with all sorts of cups and saucers, cans that are being used as paint holders face the window. The 550 sq. ft of space Mulder occupies reflects his paintings, deliberately imperfect and evident of his movements. It was in his studio that we began our conversation about painting and came up with the title of the show, "Dirty Messy Painting." This show brings together a diverse group of artists whose works explore materiality and process; and artists who take found, pop images to reveal the disparity between the everyday and the idealized narrative. Participating artists are Paul Bloodgood, Wallace Whitney, Sebastiaan Bremer, Janaina Tschäpe, Gerben Mulder, Stephen J Shanabrook & Veronika Georgieva, Melissa Dyanne Bartlett, Lauren Luloff and David Kramer.
Abstract paintings are often discussed with talk of colors, gestural movements; these elements are a crack, a way for audiences to enter. The works in Dirty Messy Painting, give us another point of entry - the material. Lauren Luloff utilizes domestic items like bed sheets, found textiles where the construction of the image is laid bare. In contrast, Wallace Whitney and Melissa Dyanne Bartlett's paintings emphatically want us to face the gestures, fields of colors and the movements, drawing on the influences of artists like Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, and Philip Guston. In the familiar is where the new and the personal pictorial narrative is taking place. Paul Bloodgood collages various images from parts and details from diverse sources and makes a study, yet traces of these steps are not obvious in the final image; instead, a map-like aerial view of a landscape emerges where lines and pictorial planes do not lead to familiar ground. Stephen Shanabrook and Veronika Georgieva melt plastic toys and remnants to create images that are at once beautiful and disturbing. The meaning, the material and the process are literally melted together in extreme heat, resulting in flattened plastic figures and abstract forms that are created just before they become liquid forms, suspended in time and space. The flattened figures are shiny, grotesque and seem stuck, like a cartoon character squashed on a wall. Yet the figures in these works will not pop up again before our eyes.
There is a sense of freedom in Gerben Mulder and Janaina Tschäpe's work. Painting is just one of the mediums that Tschäpe uses to express the fluid, messy, bloated body in nature. Her paintings unabashedly melds the figurative and the abstract as do Mulder's. Their gestures and forms are seductive and beckon to abandon any ideals about art. On the other hand, David Kramer uses familiar pop images and text to bring the subversive messages to foreground. Often, the text and the images do not agree like the disparity between the air sometimes we put on and how we really feel. Kramer brings these self-conscious thoughts to surface with a sense of humor and an "I don't give a ..." attitude that is tinged with "I do kind of care." Sebastiaan Bremer often uses blown up photographs from his past and of his family members as a surface, painting thousands of meandering tiny ink dots that dance on top of the photograph. The dots create lines and define the figure but also distort it, in a way shielding the subject from the viewer's gaze and scrutiny by seducing the viewer to return their gaze on the dots.
Dirty Messy Painting brings together artists who are utilizing "painting" in their practice. The result is an exhibition of works that show the enormous freedom and range that painting as a medium allows; and how the path to arrive at an image is almost never a clear cut and neat endeavor.