Artist Brian Calvin returns to Anton Kern this fall for his seventh solo show with the gallery, continuing his unique approach to portraiture and figuration that twists cartoonish color and form into a nuanced depiction of the human visage.
Faces abound in Calvin’s newest show, filling the gallery with lush bursts of color and form. Eyes and lips take on a quality akin to a mosaic, with the swirling repetitions of color filling the space and creating a symphony underscored by subtle repetitions of shape and form. The set of 23 new works, painted during the pandemic in Calvin’s home of Ojai, seems filled with meditative quiet, delving into the solitude of the sleepy town and its inhabitants in an attempt to find a new meaning for connection and humanity at the peak of a global crisis.
Developing the ideas for the works through a sketchbook, his pieces here display motifs that seem somewhat new in his body of work. Features double up or suddenly break free from the plane of the face, as if Calvin’s figures had slowly slipped way from the fabric of reality, and taken on strange new features in the depths of his imagination. Activating techniques from synthetic Cubism, his works play freely with color, texture, viewpoint, and plane, bringing spontaneity and urgency to his images, and seem to surge with a life and sense of space that had previously sat beneath the surface of his works. In works such as Delayed Reaction and Composite Sketch, there is a sense of motion blur or double vision, each face having two cascading sets of eyes and lips. In Composite Self and Passing Thoughts, forlorn faces with five o’clock shadows allude to mortality and the passage of time.
In addition to optical play, the viewer is also drawn to examine the relations of figures within a single painting. In Waiting I and Waiting II, groups of women stand still in an abnormal formation: their faces are in profile, yet their eyes stare out at the viewer. Anxious intensity approaches the brink of claustrophobia in Committee and Goodbye Kiss. Interlocking portraits such as Full Circle counter with balance and calm. Through working in repetition to find multiple resolutions for an image, strategies become clear and then morph. With revisions in scale, color, and texture, Calvin’s paintings become palimpsests of his own images, layered over one another, pushing through reason, leaving questions open-ended. The result is a set of works in which the viewer can trace Calvin’s reinvention of self and space, allowing the time spent during quarantine to become a time for challenging one’s self and the interior landscapes of his mind.
The show closes December 5th.
– D. Creahan
Brian Calvin: Waiting [Exhibition Site]