Embracing a range of expressive and animated approaches to portraiture and the body, artist Vaughn Spann has put together an expansive show at Half Gallery this month, bringing together a body of 44 works to explore a striking range of ideas and modes of portraiture.
United under the title Friend Zone, Spann’s selections make for a striking investigation on the act of look, of spectator and spectacle that offers interesting perspectives on the modern politics of the image. In Leyla Faye’s Show Me Your Receipt, Girl! the artist re-creates the trauma of a young black girl, standing accused of some deviant behavior in grocery store. Her tear-stained face is front and center, focusing on her terror and pain, yet she is simultaneously the object of surveillance and protection between the accusing hand and her mother’s arms. By contrast, the works of Michael Childress are airy, minimalist exercises, still taking into account geometries and balanced forces as a way to negotiate the canvas’s meaning. Somewhere balanced strangely in the middle are works like Taylor Simmons 1978 Monte Carlo, filling the space with a human figure twisted into abstraction both by the color scheme and its tremulous figuration.
There’s a fascinating constant throughout that takes the body as a space for play, for turning it into these strange sensations of alienation and change, challenge and history. Jonathan Edelhuber’s Still life with Dubuffet sculpture on a stack of art books for instance, takes the artist’s work and tries to re-create its own stylistics within the artist’s own graphical universe. History and subjectivity take a twirl through the artist’s lens, taking on both modes in a strange sense of interaction and co-existence. In another work, Mike Lee’s Midnight Blues pushes that sense in the other direction, turning towards an abstracted 3-D body to create a distance between the art historical and his works.
All told, the show is a visual flurry, with each piece doing its part to create a fascinatingly dense visual universe. It closes February 24th.
– C. Rhineart
Friend Zone [Exhibition Site]