CANADA presents an exhibition curated by Dan Nadel of imagist paintings by emerging North American artists. This group of artists is linked by its unabashed use of representative imagery in service to surreal and oblique narratives. These artists find their lineage in the midwestern explorations of the Hairy Who, deep dish surrealism of Gary Panter, the raw beauty of H.C. Westermann and the fantastics of Max Ernst. Like their artistic ancestors, the artists at hand use a private symbol language to assemble communicative pictures. This is not decorative psychedelia or overheated allegory, but rather deeply personal and formally constructed images marked by an absence of irony and an attention to the formal elements of a cartoon and vernacular based vocabulary.
Five of the eleven artists exhibited are based or have roots in Providence, RI’s fertile arts culture. Melissa Brown’s (now based in Brooklyn) mixed media landscapes elevate the horizon to an experiential hallucination, while Brian Chippendale’s collaged images enact his own cartoon narratives on an epic scale. C.F.’s all-over images accumulate dozens of small moments, forming an idea of a distinct visual sensibility. Ben Jones, of Paper Rad, presents flattened portraits of anonymous cartoons in search of a plot, while Michael Williams paints midlife crises of universal hippies. Exiting Providence, Vancouver’s Amy Lockhart’s paintings are meticulous visions of characters in midstream, while Texan Trenton Doyle Hancock’s tactile visions of his Mound-world capture a brief narrative moment. Julie Doucet, based in Montreal, creates painted objects that function like images—her drawn vocabulary suddenly occupying three dimensions. Pittsburgh native Frank Santoro combines a comic book sense for action with a traditional painter’s attention to detail. Two New Yorkers are engaged in painted introspection: Sakura Maku used texts to layer and subvert her jangly images; Patrick Smith’s portraits of spaces and faces made of and living through surreal forms are striking passageways into another consciousness.
All of these painters refuse to be pigeonholed, allowing themselves and their images to change and mutate through multiple media.
Dan Nadel is the founder of PictureBox, Inc., a Grammy Award-winning New York-based packaging and publishing company. Its most recent releases include Brian Belott’s Wipe That Clock off Your Face and The Ganzfeld 5. He is the author of Art Out of Time: Unknown Comic Visionaries 1900-1969 and is an assistant professor of illustration at Parsons School of Design.