The Big Picture(s)
This collection of paintings represents Barnard's ongoing interest in working within the language of landscape painting to address issues of American power, presence and expansion. In this sense these are contemporary American landscapes-physical and political. Juxtaposing desert vistas, an abstract field of crosses, and a stealth bomber flying over a football stadium, Barnard portrays a looming U.S. military presence and explores the relationship between how we are positioned (and position ourselves) and how we view the world. Regardless of the images depicted, these paintings, rife with multiple meanings, suggest a critical look at the land and ourselves. To this end, Barnard often manipulates and multiplies perspectives to place the viewer in an uncomfortable or disorienting position, looking down from above, out from within, and/or directly up and overhead. For example, in Desert Rockets (2007), yucca blooms silhouetted against a deep blue sky are composed to resemble a volley of rockets careening upwards from the desert floor-proving ground to both plants and weapons. The implied position (of artist and viewer) is potentially one of complicity, as we find ourselves literally ‘looking up' to things of which we may not wish to be a part. In Barnard's practice, process and product are intertwined in an effort to answer difficult questions about being an artist today. What place does painting have in the context of current physical, social, and political realities? How can paintings respectfully incorporate-rather than exploit-thought-provoking and relevant imagery to comment on or communicate about pressing contemporary issues? Seen together, the paintings in this exhibition provide a glimpse into the artist's ongoing struggle to confront these challenges. In turn; they prompt us all to ask how much we contribute to the creation of these landscapes and our world. Chris Barnard has a B.A. from Yale University and an M.F.A. from the University of Southern California.