Robert Miller Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Justin Allen. This show, the artist’s first exhibition at the gallery, includes paintings from 2008-2010.
Allen’s trompe l’oeil paintings, ranging in dimension from 1 ½ x 1 ½ to 9×8 inches, use everyday objects as their subjects giving otherwise insignificant objects importance by isolating and rendering them in high detail. He does not stage still life set-ups in a traditional way, preferring instead to encounter the subject. Each painting is executed in oil on panel or oil or paper mounted on panel. Painted in many layers of oil glazing and color, the works can take up to two years to complete.
Marc Straus, Co-Director, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art elucidates the experience and subject matter of Allen’s paintings,
A blue cloudless afternoon, a soft May breeze and the walk along the Hudson is magnificent. A dog walker with three gray terriers, a nanny with a yellow carriage. A soccer game on the field – blue shirts versus white. Almost perfect but here and there some stains of human intrusion and incivility. A bottle cap, a discarded plastic tray for nachos, a red plastic bag.
For Justin Allen these small impediments are worthy of his efforts as a painter. No grand theater for him – he relishes in detail, the unusual color and the light reflected off something as ordinary as a discarded piece of plastic. These paintings are purely American but you have to think of Vermeer – the master of simplicity and light.
Allen is not a photorealist – these gorgeous small oil paintings are not about capturing an image as the camera would – it is about how we see things that are generally overlooked. Allen lovingly and laboriously makes little works that make us smile – they celebrate the small beauties all around.
Allen studied narrative filmmaking and states that the “idea of the visual as a form of consciousness is something I absorbed from watching a lot of films. Directors like Herzog, Tarkovsky, Bertolucci and Antonioni created a narrative film art that was aware of itself and yet involved viewers on an emotional and intellectual level.” His media is influenced by Netherlansdish artists – Jan Vermeer as well as Petrus Christus and Hans Memling. He states, their works “are mesmerizing for many reasons, not least the acuity of observation and the technical realization. Their little portraits are simple and yet very striking, pure in form, fulfilling what is inherently possible for the medium on all levels. My attraction to those early oil paintings is twofold: the aesthetic, in how the work is experienced as an exquisite verisimilitude of light and color in miniaturized form, and then the connection with the past generated by the art historical reference. Painting the contemporary with a deep appreciation for an older vernacular creates a present-already-past tense.”
Justin Allen was born in Jefferson City, Missouri in 1976, received his B.A. from Webster University in St. Louis in 1999, and his M.F.A. from Hunter College in 2007. Robert Miller Gallery exhibited a small exhibition of the artist’s work in September 2009 and featured the artist in a one-person booth in the NEXT Fair during Art Chicago in 2008. His work has been exhibited at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, NY; the Knoxville Museum of Art in Tennessee; the Eleven Gallery in London; the Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles; and at Scheubbe Projects in Dusseldorf Germany. He will be in an upcoming two-person exhibition in London at the Eleven Gallery in June.