Like Mercury in the Wind
Paolo Arao, Sam King, Jason Osborne
June 7th - July 20th, 2019
Like Mercury in the Wind brings together three artists dancing around the vernacular of abstract painting in the 21st century. Brooklyn, NY-based Paolo Arao, Fayetteville, AR-based Sam King, and North Carolina born, Queens, NY-based Jason Osborne approach abstraction from different directions, but are united in a process of chopping and weaving materials and histories together to make sense of the meaning of abstract painting in today’s cultural landscape.
These paintings are bright, whimsical, and freeform constructions of found fabrics, studio detritus, and swatches ripped from older paintings held together with brushstrokes, thread, and paint. They swing from a geometric approach in Arao’s work to a Klee, “taking a line for a walk” approach in Osborne’s work, with King’s style bridging the gap. On the surface they are fun and buoyant - like the painting equivalents of sweet pieces of cherry pie. Yet, like the feeling that propels one towards a sweet piece of pie, these works’ whimsy belies depth. Why did you eat that piece of pie? What void are you looking to fill? What joy are you trying to chase? What high are you attempting to extend? Abstract painting is, at this point two decades into the 21st century, a traditional art form with a long history. It is a mode of making with its own set of rules, traditions, and technical procedures. Yet in many ways it remains mysterious and unknowable. In Kirk Varnedoe’s 2003 lecture on abstract art given at the National Gallery of Art he put it rather succinctly, “In art we do not make things any simpler by making simpler things. Reduction does not yield certainty, but something like its opposite, which is ambiguity and multi-valence.” Yes, history is there. You can see glimmers of Alvin Loving twisted together with Anni Albers in Arao’s work, pastiches of Gottlieb blurred with Rauschenberg in the work of Osborne, and perhaps a mingling of Wolf Kahn with early 1910’s Georges Braque in Sam King’s work. Yet, this is only one perspective of abstract work, the art historical one. Perspective is the name of the game. It’s not why did one eat that piece of pie, but rather why did you eat that piece of pie.
In a world fast-training towards information over-saturation, what does it mean to paint or sew a visually enticing abstract artwork and what can be gathered from such visual treats? The ambiguity of the vernacular of abstraction might be precisely the sort of language needed in this cultural moment of non-reflection. Without overt representation or topicality, these works require the viewer to draw from their own interior depths, turning the image into a means of self-reflection. The playfulness of these pieces might draw you in, but once you are there considering their makeup: how the colors and forms interact, what the materials might indicate, locating the aforementioned art historical nods, you might work your way towards deeper questions of existential concern, which in turn could bring you back to the idea of perspective and to just where yours might be in this moment.