Sloan Fine Art is pleased to present Relocation, a group exhibition in which seven artists exploit the traditional landscape vernacular, with surprisingly diverse results. Curated by Los Angeles based painter Aaron Smith, the show includes new works by Erik Benson, Thomas C. Card, Clare Grill, David Jien, Ryan Mrozowski, Marion Peck and Jean-Pierre Roy
Recently, artist, teacher and curator Aaron Smith witnessed many young, savvy artists using landscape as a mode of expression and wondered why. After all, many would say that in the lexicon of fine art, the landscape as a subject is perceived as safe, even old fashioned. Perhaps revisiting time-honored subject matter is reassuring in these anxious times. Does an awareness, and concern about, human encroachment on our environment factor in? Maybe a loss of one-on-one human contact has brought spaces to the foreground, making figures less relevant. Perhaps educated artists with no personal relationship to pastoral scenes or sweeping panoramas see the adaptation of urban and industrial vistas as an exciting challenge and necessary evolution. After speaking with artists, Smith found that many of these issues figure prominently. But the thread that exists most consistently throughout, and in his opinion the element that makes these seven artists’ work current, fresh and riveting is their commitment to personal expression. The landscape here is not presented as a neutral, collective space, but is re-imagined in bracingly idiosyncratic terms.
If the monumental paintings of Jean-Pierre Roy remind us of the spectacular romantic paintings of Thomas Cole at his most apocalyptic, the effect seems more inspired by current disaster films like “2012.” Roy’s work is a giddy blend of Hollywood showmanship and a very real sense of personal and collective dread.
Ryan Mrozowski infuses his mysterious paintings with the heavy atmosphere of dusk. There is a sense of ritual and unquantifiable uncertainty in the air, and yet there is always a hint of humor and wit to cut the tension.
While Mrozowski often locates his paintings in a collective backwoods, Erik Benson‘s world is distinctly urban. When nature appears, it bursts to life in neglected playgrounds or creeps into the foreground refusing to be ignored. Like his subject, Benson’s technique features two competing realms sharing space - painting and collage.
The landscapes of suburban nostalgia come to mind in Clare Grill‘s sensuously sloppy paintings. By taking images of family vacations and childhood ritual out of context, Grill imparts a muffled sort of melancholy. Nature here seems largely constructed and fetishized; something we vaguely remember and deeply long for.
Marion Peck‘s landscapes are nowhere any of us have been; yet they feel strangely familiar. Darkly humorous events take place in spaces that seem distilled from every greeting card, diorama, and Disney movie ever made, drawing us in with familiarity before delivering their serious, and often seriously strange, message. With an old master’s touch Peck creates disquieting tableaux that resist categorization.
The minute, fastidiously rendered graphite on paper works of David Jien transport us to a fantasy world that is at once absurd, yet obsessively controlled. There is a sense of mysticism and wonder here, tempered by the faintest hint of conspiratorial unease.
And finally, by repeating and arranging images into monumental grids, Thomas C. Card brings to mind the rigorous formalism of Mondrian. On closer inspection, however, our reaction is softened. The images used to compose these systems are soft, grainy photographs of the once thriving, now threatened, working farms of Card’s Midwestern childhood. As with the other work in the show, the artist has transformed the formal into the deeply personal.
Aaron Smith has curated shows at the Alyce De Roulet Williamson Gallery at Art Center College of Design, and Billy Shire Fine Art, among others. His work has been exhibition at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, the Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi, the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, Koplin del Rio and Jan Baum in Los Angeles, Ann Nathan in Chicago and Sloan Fine Art in New York, to name a few. He is an Associate Chair at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and was the first Artist in Residence at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.