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Easton Miller, Andrew Holmquist, & Mike Andrews

The juxtaposition of work by Easton Miller, Andrew Holmquist, and Mike Andrews invites consideration of the ways in which material and image interact to generate content in contemporary art.

Easton Miller avails himself of an array of media to make objects that have both painterly and sculptural qualities. Many of his works jab a sharp tongue into their cheek while directing our attention to choice aspects of Americana. Glory, for example, uses basketball skin and faux shearling to evoke the NBA star rolling down the street in his lavishly appointed SUV. Hot Mess, one assumes, is dedicated to celebrity sex kittens like Paris Hilton. Two illusionistic pieces are devoted to dessert: Blue Ribbon (State Fair) mimics the look of a cherry pie, and Decisions is an ode to spumoni ice cream.

Andrew Holmquist explores painting by mining and reinterpreting its past. Using squeegee-brushes of his own design, he creates ribbons of oil paint that twist through space, distant descendants of the frilled collars on Rembrandt’s burghers or the extravagantly folding fabric in Titian’s portraits. Holmquist stakes out a territory that investigates the relationship between mimesis and free, liquid play. In one untitled work, the paint-ribbons end in hands gesturing upward as if in prayer, desperation, or maybe just to ease the pain of a bad headache. Other paintings engage the recent vocabulary of abstraction, layering different mark-making strategies to build his compositions.

Mike Andrews uses fiber, including cotton and acrylic yarns, to draw connections between painting and craft projects such as knitted sweaters and tea-cozies, while alluding to digital pixilation with stitched and woven marks. The intentional formlessness of some pieces allows them to be equally at home hung on the wall or laid on the floor like a disemboweled throw-rug. His tapestry Psychic Bastard takes a somewhat different tack, operating on a scale roughly twice the height of the viewer and woven in high-key green, red, white, and black. The structure and rhythm of many of Andrews’ tapestries hearken back to abstract expressionism, with swaths of colored fiber standing in for brushstrokes. This resemblance to muscular, historically male-dominated ab-ex painting is interesting, as the artist is a man following in the footsteps of women who pioneered much of contemporary fiber-based art.

Profile by Daniel Gerwin

Images: Gettin' Lucky, Easton Miller

Untitled, Andrew Holmquist

Psychic Bastard, Mike Andrews

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"Too Close for Comfort," James Gallagher & Ryan Gallagher

Among several projects presented by Jolie Laide Gallery for this year’s Fringe Festival in Philadelphia, James Gallagher’s invitation was distinguished by its inclusion of his son Ryan, a student/artist at Pratt Institute, School of Art and Design, initiating a first-time collaboration between this artist and his son. For James, whose collage-based practice is driven by found images, the opportunity also allowed for his intimate, gallery-sized gestures to undergo a shift in both scale and meaning, metamorphosing into street art of a very particular kind. For this project, an 8” high collage was transformed, piece-by-piece, into a 12’ image covering an exterior door near the gallery’s entrance. Holding on to the pleasures of cutting and pasting, as well as the attendant surface surprises one associates with the intimacy of collage, the enlarged image was put together at the site during one afternoon. To the left and adjacent to the gallery is his son Ryan’s response, another 12’ door covering, another afternoon’s effort, but one that was painted in response to the work of his father. The title for the collaboration also came from Ryan, this time responding to the title of his father’s 8” collage, “To Close”. Those words were part of the original work, leftover information printed on a camera manual’s page that had made it into the collage. In this outsized, outdoor version those words were cropped out of the image, but not before Ryan would pick up on the play they offered, deciding the collaboration should be called “Too Close for Comfort”, and with that, adding another layer to the meaning of both works, and driving home the fact of this father/son collaborative work once more.

In James Gallagher’s composite image, a suited, and something like hooded male figure dominates. Its gesture is uncertain but evocative, slightly bent and looking down, as if the collaged blocks of paper hovering just above its head were bearing some invisible weight. Complicating the image further (in the most visually pleasurable way) is the fact of the door’s paneling whose linear marks propose another invisible layer that the image might be floating on or under. And the metal street address, 228, reading through the paper collage, contributes a further mysterious note, suggesting the otherwise unidentified man might now be known by his number. On its own, the figure’s posture is still anonymous and enigmatic, in keeping with the artist’s general interest in what revelations reside in how one occupies one’s own space; positioned to the right of Ryan’s work, the figure appears to have gained some extended purpose, as it seems to be peering at the accompanying image, implicating it in this collaborative field with just its gaze – what a father can do - and generating some meaning beyond its own, contained self. What the figure “sees” is a painted white field where several outlined tombstones continue to recede until they reach the nearly blank, black field above them. Light, random spots dot the blackness, suggesting that snow might be falling, and supporting the snow-covered reading of the tombstones below. A whisper of some other landscape is barely noticeable just beneath the image, further echoing with its subtle simplicity the informing source for Ryan, a print by Ando Hiroshige, a favorite artist of his. Mixing a contemporary, provisional, Western attitude with this older, Eastern influence suspends the moment, capturing the eye of the father’s figure (or should we say father figure?) and making a compelling case for holding our attention as well. From the start, Ryan had suggested that he would change the meaning of his father’s image with his own, and in fact, at least for this moment on Juniper Street, he has.

by Eileen Neff

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Robert Horvath Interview with JL Schnabel

JL Schnabel: In your statement you talk about how our culture and country is filled with amnesiacs who have readily forgotten the current horrors of the world and instead have turned to the glitter of celebrity and consumerism. Can you talk about why this has become the major expository theme of your work?

Robert Horvath: I grew up in the former Czechoslovakia. My dad was an art teacher, but could not teach because of his conflicts with the regime at the time. As a child I was taken to many museums and was exposed to various kinds of art. My father and I would go visit a local gypsy artist as well as Old World potters that produced functional pottery. Like most of us growing up behind the Iron Curtain, I pictured America as a utopian land with the understanding that I wouldn’t ever be able to visit.

Shortly after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the borders opened and the ability to travel West became a reality for us. I participated in an exchange program and ended up in a university in North Texas. During my graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I began working on a body of work dealing with the nightlife. This was a significant and life-changing time for me, as I finally started dealing with my sexuality.

Once I started seeing the reality of all the shine and glamour of club life and the people participating in it, my work became more focused on the psychology behind the behaviors and the value systems of our modern society. I never thought of that body of work as a negative criticism of the scene, though.

JS: Although the “landscapes” you conjure in your newer paintings aren’t based within the natural world, they have the appearance of something very real and have the feel of being satellite photographs. Is this contradiction of real but yet not real something you were thinking about?

RH: I was reading about the concept of the “memes” in Richard Dawkins’ Selfish Gene. It is interesting to me to think about how the information systems work. I think that the ability of manipulating information and having control over the way that this information is spread is fascinating to me. Gossip is a perfect example of this transfer of information- I love the idea of the multiple mutations that it can go through as it infects individual minds.

As for the idea of “landscapes,” I think they can exist on multiple levels. There is always the macro/micro question which I am not very concerned with. Entities that exist in my work are something like three-dimensional scans of non-tangibles. I like the mystery they can carry. They are living entities, but not the way we understand living and breathing organisms. I know it sounds so sci-fi, yet I have no history of growing up watching Star Wars or playing video games as with most of my generation. I just don’t think that was on the Communist system agenda.

JS: Your earlier works were more figure-based, yet it still retained the gelatinous and tactile shapes found more fully realized in your new paintings. What caused you to remove the humans from your work?

RH: I think the humans needed to go. They are still in the work, but more symbolically. I am not really interested in the figure as someone who loves drawing nudes, for example. Figure was in my work because it was something the work required. By removing the figure completely, I got rid of the constraints that it always had for me. There is too much history associated with painting the figure; I am not interested in that dialog anymore.

You are correct, though; the gelatinous surfaces stayed. I feel very attracted to something that is so slick and flawless- it makes me question its authenticity. By carrying over the shiny, slick, and flawless surfaces of skin from my models to my “forms”, you could say that in some ways the figure never left the work.

When I painted figures, I wanted then to look as if they were made out of some squishy silicone, plastic, waxy material. When doing photo shots with my models, I would have them put on a peel of cosmetic mask. They could not smile or that shiny surface on their face would start peeling off. It was fun working that way. They were alive but not really, I guess. Imagine a Realdoll, a perfect sex doll, but alive.

JS: Can you talk a bit about how you choose to title your pieces and how they are important to understanding your work?

RH: I was thinking about some powerful concepts/ideologies that I don’t necessarily agree with for the titles I chose for the current work. But there are some goofy ones like “Braincandy” that directly refers to a movie that is so stupidly mindless that you brain’s only function is stuff popcorn in your mouth. I think titles are important to my work as it gives a way for a viewer to enter from a specific place, after that they are free to wander around. Plus, I think my titles tend to have a little sarcasm mixed with silliness.

JS: The glazing technique you employ in your work is rooted in the old world master tradition and yet appears in such a modern and futuristic context. Is this choice conscious? Also, this style of painting must be a lengthy process. How do you feel while you are creating these works? How do you choose which compositions to commit to?

RH: My paintings take long time to make. I am not as prolific as some other artists out there. I am not concerned about making tons of work - devoting months on one painting is a great experience for me. It exercises my patience, discipline, and focus. The process of making my paintings is similar to way I think of my life - I am dedicated to my goals, and I will take time to enjoy the journey. Now, because I make only a few paintings, it does not mean I am limited on ideas, I just don’t feel like I need to put it all out there.

Technique is something that always comes up in discussion in my work. I know that contemporary art world seems to sometimes forget about finely-crafted objects and tends to focus purely on the concept. I realize that the new technologies of delivering visual culture today create huge competition with works that don’t move with the speed of light. I want my work to mirror who I am as an artist; I am not there to compete. I am a very meticulous person, and my work needs to show it.

I love the process of creating something. There is beauty in systems that simply work well together. I enjoy learning about the Old Masters’ approach to make a painting, so that I can adjust it to fit my needs to make work now. My glazing technique is my way to translate working in watercolor to oil. I think colors stay brighter when left in their pure form layered and mixed optically.

Interview by JL Schnabel

Images: "Neurofraud," "Ignavus Viridae," & "Dangerous Dolls" by Robert Horvath

Artist's Profile here.

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Robert Horvath

Slick glamour and grotesque glitter converge in Indianapolis-based Robert Horvath’s newest body of work. The show features seven oil paintings and six sculptures; the latter of which are created to act as reference for the paintings but add an additional sense of anomaly to the collection. This sense of incongruous, convulsive beauty seems to lie at the heart of the show and creates a subtle tension between the works. The oil paintings, all featuring otherworldly abstractions of conjured cosmos, are composed in the Old-World master style of painting. This technique includes glazing, an intense and long process that involves building thin layers of paint on the canvas to create dimension. Horvath’s skilled approach to this technique creates an ironic hyper-realistic mirage. The paintings appear to have the look of photographs, but the contents are wholly imagined.

While the paintings take on slick faux realism, the sculptures appear to rebel against the traditional techniques of their counterparts. Assembled from found objects such as neon Easter eggs, hardened glitter and plastic chandelier crystals, they exist as maquettes for the paintings. Elaborate and dizzyingly colorful, they appear as exposed alien organs and futuristic headdresses ribbed with rhinestones and oozing, thick foam. It’s hard to imagine the same artist could create both forms, but the evidence is in the paintings. The shapes of crystals and foam are apparent in the work while freckled glitter show up in pieces such as “Nerofraud.”

The dark humor of Horvath is most evident in his titles. With names such as “Brain Candy” and “15 Minutes of Fame,” a bit more of his intentions are revealed. When asked about his work, he replies with questions:

“What happens when glamour loses it’s bodily functions? What happens when you stick your finger in it? Is it rotten?”

This focus on glamour began in earlier works when Horvath was still using human models coated in layers of thick makeup to explore his themes of faux glamour and the underbelly of club nightlife. Since the deletion of figures within his paintings, he has more fully explored the idea of what exists within the flawless exterior of luxury and popular culture. While some of the paintings portray whole orbs with mutant growths of brightly lit light sabers and glittering diamonds, others appear broken open, their guts exuding toxic poison or perfume into their respective stratospheres. With the addition of calculated and sharp geometric shapes, the blobs of pearls and bridges of jeweled strings gain a more grotesque nature, appearing gelatinous and alive.

The tension between the forms of the work and its themes plays out wonderfully in the gallery. While it is evident that the sculptures could serve as reference, they also take on a playful tone as the youthful knockoffs of the elaborate and flawless oil paintings. The beauty and the grotesqueness of the works appeal to our culture’s habit of revering the luxury and glamour that most of the population can’t afford, it exposes its flaws and it’s triumphs, all while retaining a witty sense of humor.

Profile by J.L.Schnabel

Image: "BRAINCANDY," Robert Horvath

Artist's Interview here.

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