Walter Askin and Wayne Kimball . . . from page 1
“Reality Reorganized” aptly describes Askin and Kimball’s use of motifs and common objects. For instance, Askin places the figure of Rembrandt in one painting, only to repurpose that figure as a banjo-playing mechanic (“Rembrandt’s All-Night Garage,” 2015). This type of humor and absurdity abounds in both men’s artworks, including in the works’ titles. Some are laugh-out-loud funny—Kimball’s “Bearded Man with a Headache This Big” or Askin’s “Christopher Columbus Returns from the New World with the Four Basic Food Groups to Queen Isabella Levitating and Oskar Kokoschka in a Funk”, for example. The wit conveyed through such literal descriptions is at least half the fun, well-matched to the vibrant hues and quirky motifs in the works themselves.
Of course, each artist shows decided preferences in medium. Askin most often uses acrylic on canvas or paper, whereas Kimball prefers the lithograph nearly exclusively. The only exceptions are the few collaborative works by both artists and some three-dimensional pieces by each. Similarly, each artist leans toward a recognizable color palette. Most of Askin’s paintings feature bright colors such as turquoise blue, burnt orange, burgundy red, black, and lime green. Possibly due to challenges inherent in the lithograph process, Kimball’s palette tends more toward mustard yellow, rustic terra cotta, cerulean blue, mossy greens, and neutrals like gray, brown, and tan.
Several of Kimball’s works merit more detailed discussion here, mostly because they are emblematic of his style. For instance, in “The Artist Mounted on Horseback” (1984, lithograph), Kimball’s literal portrayal of a classical head mounted against the back of the horse’s neck speaks volumes about the artist’s sense of humor. As the horse gazes left and the head gazes right, the pole on which both are situated draws the eye down to the pedestal base—which sits on top of a pair of rocking chair runners. Two of the artist’s other paintings also feature horses and classical stone heads, namely “Portraits of a Man and His Horse, the Horse Having Bitten the Man” (1996) and “An Emperor and Someone Else’s Horse” (2007). In the latter work, Kimball humorously features the head of Emperor Constantine, once mistaken for Marcus Aurelius in a famous equestrian portrait. Throughout Kimball’s featured works, he references motifs such as birds, horses, zebra or tiger-skin rugs, Roman busts, and palm fronds. These motifs are commonly shown in the lithographs and three-dimensional works (e.g., intricate wooden boxes and shadow-box displays).
Like Kimball, Walter Askin also enjoys the juxtaposition of history and fiction, imagination and reality. His works regularly feature symbolic objects or totems. These emblems are sometimes natural objects, sometimes animals and—occasionally—creatures that seem part human, part machine. In “Oscar Wilde at the Swap Meet”(1996), Askin juxtaposes the extravagance of Oscar Wilde (partly hidden behind a sumptuous curtain on the right) with the decidedly unglamorous atmosphere of a street fair on the left, complete with ribald dancers and street vendors hawking their wares. By contrast, “Totems for Seurat” (1988) imitates Seurat’s famous pointillism style with vibrant bursts of red, green, and orange in the background, against which dark silhouetted totems stand in dramatic relief . Nearby, “Good and Evil” (2004) portrays an eerie, floating figure of a man wearing a suit and bowler hat, hovering through an open window. To the right a closed window pane reveals an ominous black, faceless figure presumably seeking entrance. In between these mysterious figures sits a man, painted in gray, sitting with a resigned expression on his face, as if awaiting the inevitable. Least typical of Askin’s featured works is a three-dimensional “Theater” (no date) which features moveable stick players within a wooden cupboard. The moveable characters hint at infinite possibility while the whole work compares artifice against reality.
For this reviewer, the highlight of the show is “Grape Crusher Modified” (2015), a collaboration by Askin and Kimball. One can see the hand of Askin in the humorous figures of grape dancers/crushers, as well as the stylized, twisting pencil on the right side. The orange polka-dot walls, caricatured faces, and vibrant coloring may also reflect Askin’s style. But—as the work is part lithograph, part collage—Kimball’s hand is fully evident as well. The top ”layer” is a brightly colored portrayal of a calm (perhaps tired) figure stomping grapes in a bath. The second layer is a pen and ink drawing of a frenetic, even panicky, grape crusher mostly hidden from view except for his head and arms, which flail about while droplets of juice splash in every direction. Intriguingly, the bottom layer is left unpainted.
Neglecting this exhibit would indeed be a shame, since every art lover—even those who typically avoid contemporary art—will delight in the absurdity, comedy, and unbounded fun of this show.
"Totems for Seurat" by Walter Askin
Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Among the Shadows
Jorge Rojas' Painted Veil at Rio Gallery
In part, Shelley’s sonnet "Lift not the painted veil" is about casting fake appearance, putting up a front, masquerading throughout life, covering one’s true essence through pretense, false posturing, façades and veiling—a type of lived inauthenticity.
What can be seen then is false, counterfeit, and superficial.
Veils keep the true form of objects (and people) hidden, but, simultaneously, act as an allure, a semitransparent materiality to add mystery to the object beneath. That which is covered or made mysterious is all the more captivating when unseen, when suggested, rather than exposed.
Such an interpretation of the painted veil, as Shelley draws, is taken only in part for the exhibition of the same title curated by Jorge Rojas, now up at the Rio Gallery and including the work of 15 Utah-based artists — Trent Alvey, Jan Andrews, Christine Baczek, Jared Lindsay Clark, Daniel Everett, Jenevieve Hubbard, Sarinda Jones, Amy Jorgensen, Beth Krensky, Stephanie Leitch, Lizze Määttälä, Colour Maisch, Jared Steffensen, Roland Thompson and Brian Usher. “This show is also about seeing and how the act of seeing can be a philosophical, creative and even a mystical endeavor, as well as a sensory one.” says Rojas.
He continues, “The Painted Veil focuses on work that requires the viewer to look through, into or beyond the artwork. Several works possess qualities of transparency, translucency and opacity that allow light to filter through.” As is common with Rojas’ own artistic practice, mysticism plays a strong role throughout the exhibition, as does seeing without being completely seen, material transparency, and object masking.
Take Trent Alvey’s work — two shaggy shafts of glowing plastic mounted on glass blocks lit by fluorescent bulbs titled "Slipping Glimpsers." Alvey suggests that they make reference to a reoccurring dream she had as a child, a visual that lingered in her subconsciousness, seen, but only sideways, never fully grasped. Paraphrasing de Kooning in reference to her work, to her experience, she says “. . . I would be walking and then slip a little and then get a glimpse of something.“ It was, for her, something that was known only indirectly, in the periphery.
Veiling also takes on a new reading when paired with readymade objects which are masked or repurposed from their assumed original use. Jared Lindsay Clark’s collection of princess-looking tchotchkes, "Cutlage Kitschebilds," are gathered from the fray of cluttered discards then turned on their sides, then covered in drips of paint. It is, significantly, one of the few works that references the ‘paintedness’ from the title directly. In his statement, Clark asks:
“Is it a Painting?
Where is the Painting? (Where are the Paintings?)
What is Painting?
Which side is the front, and which is the back?
…Paint made Object…Paint made Veil.”
Paint covers the figures, which simultaneously masks, transforms and illuminates them. The assemblage creates an amoeba-looking picture plane, which highlights the hollowness of the plaster cast.
Amy Jorgensen’s "Dissections," are light-sensitive emulsions placed on her skin and developed over time, through body heat. The end result produces images of Jorgensen’s skin, clothing, and hair so micro in focus that they appear abstract, or what she calls “visual residue of experience.” In part, there is a sense of seeing deep and in detail the body and thinking about skin, which is both subject and participant in the photograph, as a type of veil for one's being. Yet, like the photographs of Trevor Paglen, there is a feigned sense of intimate access, of looking close, without truly revealing anything about the person, the form, the location, the skin. Thus, the dissected body remains veiled.
Creating a sense of mystical transportation, Daniel Everett’s "Portal" and Roland Thompson’s "Lights of Night," seemingly make reference to a religious veil, a screen that divides one paradigm from another. According to LDS doctrine—both artists teach at BYU— the word veil is “a divider separating areas of the tabernacle or temple, a symbol for a separation between God.”1
Exploring transparent materiality are Jared Steffensen’s "Untitled Prop 3," a cast plastic molding of skateboard rails, Sarinda Jones geometric glass sculpture, and Beth Krensky’s installation, where a hard wooden chair has a glass case that reveals delicate white feathers.
Connections between Rojas's reading of the veil and Shelley’s poem, from which the exhibition takes its name, are stronger in some works than others. But overall the collective body of work is impressive, and even when the reference to the notion of veiling falters or feels contrived, there remains, with the exhibition, something like unto what Shelley describes as, “a splendour among the shadows.”