Artist Profile: Salt Lake City
A Rose is a Rose
The minimal art of James Charles
James Charles is one of the two recipients of Utah Arts & Museums' annual Visual Art Fellowships in 2012. He was awarded for a new body of work abstract work, completed after a debilitating neck injury left him unable to paint for a two-year period.
The works are minimal, restrained touches of color on white surfaces, and scaffolded on strict grid, multiple squares floating on top of and embedded into the paintings' surface. Recently Charles has expanded this aesthetic to three-dimensional works, carrying to these pieces reiterated motifs like the rose.
Our video profile shows Charles at work in his studio, sizing up compositions and carving out panels, as well as discussing his life, the ideas behind his works and the power of symbols.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Through a Glass Brightly
Justin Wheatley at 15th Street Gallery
“The painting shows the façade but the work speaks beneath the surface,” says Justin Wheatley about his multi-media paintings, a new batch of which are currently on exhibit at Salt Lake’s 15th Street Gallery. His canvases and sculptures are intricately layered, including subjects such as buildings, homes, and bridges, latticed with abstracted line, shape, color, plane, symbol, and detail.
In a visual play, Wheatley deconstructs the physicality of the façade of his subject.
As this new exhibit of urban-themed collage works demonstrates, Justin Wheatley creates a multifaceted statement that is visually powerful and cognitively complex, weaving an ongoing fabric of existential meaning. Whether his subject is a Salt Lake bungalow or the Brooklyn Bridge, Wheatley’s mixed-media paintings are easily recognizable for their formal qualities, but those surface elements are mere indications of what the pieces are ultimately about.
Wheatley’s paintings are each abstract commentaries on shades of reality, the structures on their surfaces visual ciphers to lead the viewer’s mind into a labyrinth of meanings. For Wheatley, those meanings are based in very personal experiences. “My beliefs have always been a part of my work,” he says. “To me it is very evident, right there, easy to see. At the same time, I realize that it is not evident or easy to see for the majority of people that look at the work.” Wheatley’s invocation of the material world is also a meditation on existential reality, but his is an existentialism that does not question and nullify but provokes and contemplates.
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Fulfilling the Norms
Al Denyer and Sandra Brunvand @ Kayo Gallery
Familiarity with the technical processes that bring art works into being is a mark of sophistication, and some artists consider their methods as equal to subject matter in importance. Others know better, preferring the viewer ignore the smocked figure behind the curtain in order to focus on the thing visual images do best, which is bypass cognition and seemingly enter the flesh directly, evoking physical and emotional responses akin to those experienced in the direct presence of the thing depicted: humor, pathos, terror, awe—the sublime and the beautiful. Our modern emphasis on technique begins with Jackson Pollock, who has the distinction of having dethroned an ideal of art that had stood forever in favor of a new model that, when the novelty finally wore off, his own paintings prove to have been without basis in fact. His emphasis on the action of the artist, the flinging of paint in intentional accidents, seemed to prove what a century of artists had come to argue: that visual illusions and the sense of the presence of remote things were not actually necessary. This notion was so exciting to the audience sixty years ago that they failed to notice how many of the missing elements they were projecting into the work: space, perspective, hidden connections between discreet parts of the the image, rhythm, meaning. A drip painting turned out to represent a new subject, yes, but it relied on the same built-in impulses in the viewer that had served Van Eyck.
Sandy Brunvand and Al Denyer are familiar figures in Salt Lake. Each works in an artistic niche, a specialized corner of an art spectrum that, since the Renaissance, has seen few overall masters. Brunvand, a founder of Saltgrass Printmakers, favors a graphic approach in which print is a raw material, rather than a final product. How marks are made is important to her, but she never forgets that in themselves marks are trivial; it is the many subtle ways they can signify that makes them interesting. Delicately drawn ink portraits, parts printed on rice paper, and common metal staples are punctuated by filigrees of sewn lines and dog hair. Although she works primarily in black and white, textures of marks and various kinds of paper combine to produce a subtle palette. She often draws on natural images, such as the living as well as dried plants she finds while walking in the hills. What begins with nature viewed up close becomes a cerebral landscape, composed not so much of vistas as symbolic echoes that play on the page like music in the mind.