A look at the work of Sam Falls illustrates a vibrant interior universe, one populated by swirling undergrowth, alien forms and a series of linkages connecting human and non-human agents. This sensibility hits a high point at his most recent exhibition with 303 Gallery, where Falls has selected a series of new works for his fall show.
Falls’ new paintings continue a distinct mediation between environment and human consciousness, embracing a plein air process of arranging fragments of the natural world into intricate tableaux activated by weather and the passage of time, and allowing these subtle interactions to render a final form on the canvas. Advancing his ongoing work in the national forests of the US, Falls’ paintings record both the physical material and ethereal atmospheric attributes of these fragile, temporary sites. They are schematics of interaction, illustrating both interior structures of leaves and plants, interacting with Falls’s own hand. For this exhibition, he has also incorporated the human form and osseous imagery into the works, expanding the formal language through a subtle allusion to the memento mori, and its interactions with, again, the natural world. Falls’s works echo an interest in secular spirituality and its applications towards nature itself, pointing to the psychology of natural forms, impulses reared on historical referents but caught in a temporal web that is the ever-changing moment.
A distinct sense of simplicity is key to Falls’ paintings, merging various iconographies towards “organic matter” towards a new mode of corporal figuration, and using these bodies as typologies of frozen poses, ultimately pushing his works towards narrative arcs and metaphorical constructions. The floral cuttings themselves are echoed in the disembodied arms and hands of the paintings – a rib cage covered in leaves is a story of infinite deaths and rebirths. Pieces of lace can be seen in contour, an interstice between the human and natural worlds with a medieval air of decorative allegory.
In another turn, a series of ceramic works transpose clay and earth for skin and flesh on his subjects, with leaves pressed into casts made from human bones. If bodies can stand for trees, trees can stand for sustenance and constancy, and the two forms feed each other. Variations and repetitions of formal, psychological, and biological recombination are recorded as artworks, shared visions of a litany of human reckoning.
The artist’s work is on view through November 14th.
– C. Rhinehart
Sam Falls at 303 Gallery [Exhibition Site]