The Surface Beneath : Dirk De Bruycker, Gary Emrich, Brandon Bultman, Ian Fisher
Jul 19 – Sep 1, 2012
Robischon Gallery is pleased to present “The Surface Beneath,” a four-part exhibition featuring Dirk De Bruycker, Gary Emrich, Brandon Bultman and Ian Fisher, which examines substrates of materiality and psychology expressed through several broadly diversified methods. From the mineral underpainting of the richly stained and saturated canvases of Dirk De Bruycker to the complex and mesmerizing video work of Gary Emrich, all of the exhibited artists exalt in the inexorable forces of the natural world. Pushing through the veneer of experience to the way that data infiltrates our very identities, the exhibition invites the viewer to not only consider the artwork before them, but also what resides beneath.
Dirk De Bruycker
Seasoned artist Dirk De Bruycker’s paintings reflect the artist’s awareness of the fragility of life and his vision of the ever transforming beauty within it. In each of the several large-scale works on view, the artist’s seemingly set palette of bold translucent washes of deep yellows, charged reds and rich aubergine purples also reveal a contemplative story beneath. They allude to a spectrum of life – told in symbolic and patterned form and prompted by De Bruycker’s personal epiphany upon observing the natural world. His varied materials assist him; mixing different mediums such as asphalt and cobalt with the oil enamel on canvas to bring forth layers on canvas which are both dramatic in form and subtly drawn. The artist states:
“My paintings are not so much conceptually driven; rather they are emotive and fluid, liquid even. Color fields and forms are negotiated intuitively, responsive to what I like to call a painterly logic that is unique to each painting. If the actions of a painting start off rather detached, somewhat random, they become increasingly more specific and sparse towards the completion of the painting. It’s a process of fine tuning where I try to capitalize on the few lucid moments that occur during the process. I try to infuse or charge the painting with emotional content through the very acts of painting. Throughout the years I have searched for a tactile but fragile beauty, a kind of dangerous beauty, a fleeting one. Democritus Junior lists beauty as a cause for melancholy in his eclectic scholarly work ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy.’ This tragic beauty interests me.”
Also impactful is the fact that the Belgium-born and educated De Bruycker resides part of the time in New Mexico as well as spending a portion of each year in Nicaragua. Regarding these experiences, the artist writes:
“I think some of the intensity and sensuality of Latin America has crept into my work. There is a feeling of unease here below the surface that is palpable and yet it is so beautiful here. The force of life is so strong; it permeates everything – you can literally hear things grow. I think it is some of that intensity of life, which is very different from my cooler northern European sensibilities that I have allowed to surface in the paintings.”
In his first solo exhibition installation at Robischon Gallery, emerging artist Brandon Bultman offers a potent, yet thoughtful view of place through both personal and shared histories. Utilizing quintessentially masculine objects as icons of American identity such as the automobile and concrete, Bultman’s visual vocabulary upends the norm. Central to his installation entitled Búfalo Blanco, is a 1959 Buick station wagon. And like cars of this era in their prime, they embodied an idealized Post War pinnacle – the locus of family togetherness, prosperity and the freedom of the open road – spoils of the great American Dream. Dominant and imposing in the gallery space, the now no- longer-ideal, rusted and decayed automobile is overturned onto its roof and appears to have come to rest over time onto the gallery floor after a calamitous event. With upturned wheels and the undercarriage altered by the artist into a different reality, it suggests an eerie vulnerability and displacement. Within this context – a shifting of a host of American ideals such as the traditional nuclear family, America as industrial leader and the West as a romantic allegory for limitless freedom for all who arrived – Bultman offers a broader, more universal perspective.
The Buick, now at rest, is being opportunistically colonized by waves of native Western grasses, succulents and wildflowers undeniably alluding to an inevitable cycle of death and rebirth. The flora, nascent green, flowering or dormant, symbolizes cyclical renewal as it acknowledges the pattern that expansion follows even the most catastrophic, upending events both past and present. Additionally, Bultman’s leaning sculpture entitled Milk and Honey takes the phrase meant to embody the lushness and abundance of the Promised Land and presents it in rigid, block letters embossed in a square of impossibly weighty, gray concrete. Even though concrete is created from an earthly aggregate, the expressed sentiment and materials seem wholly antithetical, as if natural resources have been paved over leaving nothing but the enduring concept. Finally, the suggestion and use of a partial quote by writer C.S. Lewis makes clear the poetic insight of how the artist views the true nature of not just the West, but rather, the world as a continuum. The Lewis text reads.
“The gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…”
The cumulous clouds of emerging artist Ian Fisher’s paintings are voluminous and majestic. Intended not only as sublime representations of what clouds actually are – formations as a result of amassed water droplets – but as well, the paintings are an expression of the creativity and timelessness these forms reveal. Brimming with the implied possibility of both tumultuous weather and the potential to deliver life-giving water, the familiar, yet reinterpreted cloudscapes invoke strong responses of recognition and imagination. Yet as a painter, it is in the possibilities for abstraction where the artist’s interest lies; what is found in the layered mark making; the accumulated brushstrokes of the elemental and the subtle and sometimes unpredictable color that results in his ongoing examination of the act of painting.
The cloudscape as creative vehicle parallels Fisher’s previous series of figurative erasure drawings. The spare, but layered, works on paper were based on family photographs and an exploration of memory, light and form in keeping with the artist’s relatable themes. To the viewer of this exhibition, the cloud formations through the artist’s hand recall each observer’s own direct sense of nature’s remarkability. In the studio, Fisher’s cloud compositions offer an opportunity to redefine his submersion into demanding painterly territory – both subjective and nature-bound.
In a reprisal of the artist’s impressive Denver Art Museum solo presentation and placed within a unique context as part of “The Surface Beneath,” Gary Emrich’s video installation transforms the video gallery with an optical wonder of vivid botanical specimens activated by flights of thriving honeybees. His brilliantly colored, thrumming video of nature in action is part of the artist’s ongoing expression and investigation of how humans create personal memories and collective histories from not only the countless objects and impressions they regularly accumulate in life, but from nature itself. Interested in how and why humans endow certain objects, events, and images with special meaning by preserving them, the artist conflates seemingly unrelated events from both personal and shared locations. The timeless images of diligent, pollinating honeybees looping and buzzing about the garden of the artist’s home are juxtaposed with audio and video recordings from early American astronaut transmissions from the moon. As part of the installation Emrich constructed a full and illuminated moon to further ponder how humankind enmeshes itself with life‘s constant waves of incoming information while formulating individual identities. This decidedly human tendency is suggested in form as part of the larger cosmos and the ever-present challenge to decipher the big picture from within the layers beneath.