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Gaylen Gerber at Rowley Kennerk Gallery
The Rowley Kennerk Gallery is showing five, now four (one has been temporarily removed from exhibition), Gaylen Gerber works from his ongoing project Supports.
The first piece one sees as one enters the gallery is Fixed Interval by Louise Lawler and Allan McCullom. It is a stand-in piece for a painting that has been removed. The brass symbol is decorative and almost gaudy. It causes one to reconsider if one is even in the right place until one turns and sees the familiar “Gerber gray”[i] paintings hanging on the walls. The brass plays with the florescent lights, shining, in contrast with the four matte monochrome Gerber paintings. Fixed Interval has all the elements missing in the paintings: color variance, organic shape, depth, and movement.
The paintings seem almost as unremarkable as the wall they are hung on. Two gray paintings hang opposite each other on the two small sidewalls. Two white paintings of nearly equal size hang next to each other on the same wall as the door and, therefore, are seen last. The monochrome gray and white are most striking in their simplicity. However, the paintings are not simple. The plain, opaque paint seems to challenge the viewer to see beyond the surface. Each painting has a painting beneath the obscuring paint.
If one takes a clockwise tour of the gallery from the door, the first painting is Support. It is a 24 x 18” oil on an available painting by an unknown artist. The white oil was applied with a roller and therefore the surface of the painting is dimpled. The painting blends in with the wall. It is a closed shape painting inorganic in its lack of free form. The white seems to suggest the painting underneath is ordinary. It is better to start over with a fresh canvas. The next painting is also white, however, it was not Gerber who painted it white. The painting, Support/Untitled – Gaylen Gerber with Heimo Zobernig, is a 27 x 27” oil on canvas with a white front and gray sides. Gerber sent Zobernig the 27 x 27” canvas painted with his gray and Zobernig sent Gerber the canvas back with a white front. No individual brushstrokes can be seen on the canvas surface. Support/Untitled seems almost identical to Support until one looks at the sides. Zobernig has commented on the ordinary nature of Gerber’s painting just as Gerber did to the unknown artist’s painting.
The next piece is hung on the wall such that it touches the floor. It is a 96 x 48” painting of gray oil over a souvenir from Crossing Though the Colors by Daniel Buren titled Support. To Gerber even memories and experiences are irrelevant and can be reinvented. The piece is again inorganic with unseen brushstroke. The piece is an icon not only for other Gerber works, but also for the work to come from the support. Gerber covers the index with his gray. Gerber’s paintings lack an indexical feel because his brushstrokes cannot be seen. There is no link between artist and the works aside from his iconic use of gray. Fixed Interval is the next piece. It breaks up with feel of the show with its organic form and bright color.
Peace is somewhat restored by the final piece in the show, a 20 x 24” oil and enamel paint, and polyurethane foam on canvas on Support/Moon by Gaylen Gerber with Adrian Schiess titled Support. A large circle is cut out of the right side of the painting showing the white wall behind it. Schiess was sent the canvas painted gray by Gerber just like Zobernig. Instead of mocking Gerber, Schiess created his own image. Parts of Schiess’s image are still visible with the blue paint spatter on the sides the hair-like threads covered by Gerber’s gray. This piece is the most haptic of the five pieces being shown in the gallery. The organic elements of Schiess work are covered by Gerber’s inorganic aesthetic.
None of Gerber’s paintings are framed. This allows the white supports to melt into the wall from the front perspective. The side views make the paintings standout from the wall. Frameless paintings feel bare and unfinished like they were taken right off of Gerber’s easel. The small size of the paintings and room make the whole show private and personal. Each viewer will see something different underneath the gray and white surfaces. Despite the nontraditional outcome of Gerber’s paintings, the way he creates his paintings is very traditional. He paints on canvas with oil paints. The size of his canvas is transportable and manageable, unlike the huge pieces of Jackson Pollack. He works on one painting at a time. Gerber’s mix of tradition, which is generally thought of as organic, and contemporary inorganic monochrome are the cause for his thought provoking show.
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