Perpetual Distraction/failed interaction/repeat #2, 2009;
paper, plastic, tape & cardboard on panel; 30 x 26 inches
exhibition of new works by Faith Gay and Raymond Uhlir at D.
Berman Gallery is colored by the personal passions of the two
Austin-based artists. Though Gay and Uhlir use different materials
and techniques, both artists make exuberant, almost naïve-looking
work that seems to spring from the inner folds of a teenagerís
mind. Walking into the gallery, I felt I was being invited into
the artistsí poster-covered bedrooms, stepping over piles of
CDs, approaching their desks and seeing the objects created
out of their particular fascinations.
Gayís bright collages are born
from an enthrallment with color, shape and the materiality of
tape, stickers and cardboard. She builds each work like a 3-D
puzzle, constructing irregular cardboard shapes and stacking
them upon each other to form tiered, rectangular compositions.
Gay obsessively emblazons each tier with bits of tape, making
uproariously colored rainbows, hearts and clouds. Her best work,
like Vashti 10CC (2009), looks like a grown-up version of a
Trapper Keeper binder cover, though instead of the typical unicorn
or boy-band image, she features piecemeal symbols.
Faith Gay, Vashti 10CC, 2009; paper, plastic,
tape & cardboard on panel; 30 x 30 inches
Gayís layering of colored and clear tape looks childish but actually
reveals the workís sophistication. The constructions Perpetual
Distraction/Failed Interaction/Repeat #ís 1, 2 and 3 (all 2009)
play as saccharin, adolescent repetitions of banal rainbows. At
the same time, they somehow manage a painterly maturity. The misshapen
color arches slouch, almost winking or shrugging at the viewer.
Gayís works typically intimate
a critical self-awareness that skirts associations with hipster
kitsch. However, Gay takes a misstep with the installation Zasterous
(2010) in which a pile of tumescent orbs lounge in the gallery
corner. Replete with Godís eyes, feathers and Day-Glo pink arrows,
the work devolves into a hippy mysticism that undermines the
complexity of Gayís collage process. By contrast, for Moonmyrtle
(2010) Gay wove a full-sized vanity mirror from silver tape,
clashing high design and DIY patchwork aesthetics, demonstrating
her interest in offsetting conventional ideas of beauty with
common and castoff materials.
Yeah, I'm Not Your 'Real' Father, but Don't Fuck This Up. You've
Seen the Future and it Lays Out There with Your Friends and Family.
Get the Band Back Together. Whatever. It's Been a Good Ride, Old
Man., 2009; oil enamel on canvas; 27 x 44 inches
Uhlirís paintings, all from an ongoing series
entitled Relatively Epic, reveal his interests in cultural hierarchy,
storytelling and folklore. Where Gay transcends her adolescent
allusions, Uhlir wears them awkwardly like a childhood cape. His
paintings depict a recurring cast of characters engaged in episodic
mystical adventures. Together, the images create a sort of graphic-novel
mishmash of men and women, wolves, owls, wizards and rainbow-colored
the title suggests otherwise, Uhlirís most compelling work,
Yeah, Iím Not Your ĎRealí Father, but Donít Fuck this Up. Youíve
Seen the Future and it Lays Out There with Your Friends and
Family. Get the Band Back Together. Whatever. Itís Been a Good
Ride, Old Man. (2009) is relatively simple and straightforward.
In the painting, a woman astride a rearing horse approaches
an old man in his hut/music studio. As a portrayal of an epic
confrontation, the work displays a range of classic references
for the viewer to interpret. Conversely, in a work like Shine
On You Crazy Oracle (Because There's No Way I Believe This is
Happening. (2009) the implied narrative becomes overcomplicated
by its composition. Uhlir depicts warrior/musicians standing
around a translucent pack of big cats aglow with the image of
a female character, also in their band, while tents sit in the
background. It is impossible to tell what is going on or how
the scene came to pass.
Raymond Uhlir, Shine On You Crazy Oracle
(Because There's No Way I Believe This is Happening)., 2009;
oil enamel on canvas; 26 1/2 x 40 inches
Uhlirís works inhabit a gray area between painting, comic-book
drawing and storytelling. The paintings have no texture or surface
detail, but the backgrounds have an appealing luminosity, suggesting
some painterly concerns. Then again, Uhlirís thick, black outlining
muddles the renderings of the characters and foreground action.
His characters appear engaged in an important quest, but Uhlir
has forgotten the fundamental elements of storytelling that
will draw the viewer into the action: narrative and emotion.
Without a clear storyline, the paintings present a jumble of
figures doing little and with nothing at stake. Their faces,
as demonstrated by portraits in the show, Sister (Daughter [Twin])
and Step-Father (Abductor [Mentor]) (both 2009), lack feeling.
The ideas are there, the technical skill too, but Uhlir needs
to fully embrace the storytelling aspects of his work in order
to make an emotional connection between viewers and his pictures.
is a founding editor of Birds, LLC, an independent poetry publisher.
His chapbook Les Miseres et les Mal-Heurs de la Guerre is now
available from Greying Ghost. He lives in Austin and works for
the University of Texas.
runs through August 21, 2010.