Three very different solo shows at Fay Gold Gallery
SOLO (x) 3 is such an oddball match of artists it begs for a Peter Greenaway movie title treatment: The Romantic, the Neo-Abstractionist, the Photorealist, and Their Gallery Owner.
Eric Mack, Paul Galloway and Melissa Herrington, the three painters featured in SOLO (x) 3 at Fay Gold Gallery, don't have much in common beyond their relative shiny penny newness.
The Fay Gold Gallery is a space that clearly knows what the market will bear, even if its aesthetic can feel like a trip to Krazy Town. It combines Herrington's time-glazed Southern gothic pieces with the conceptual and technical whipcrack of photorealist painter Paul Galloway. And going in yet another direction (at about a 150-mile clip) in this curatorial push me/pull me are Eric Mack's DJ remixes thrown down with paint and paper and a multitude of media influences. With Herrington on one side of the gallery and Mack and Galloway on the other, there's a good chance, like political allegiances, viewers will choose sides.
Galloway's small sampling of very large paintings (84-inches-by-73-inches at their biggest) are technically awe inspiring, psychologically loaded and culturally engaged. Using a montage technique suggesting David Salle, but also the experimental techniques of seminal art films like Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, Galloway divides his paintings into two and three grids.
Galloway paints according to the fiction writer's imperative, depicting a world that he surely knows: of college students draped on thrift store furniture, engaged in Rolling Rock-fueled debates and sporting the retro-frump fashion of undergrads everywhere.
Assuming a fly-on-the-wall perspective, Galloway shows these colliding vignettes from oddball perspectives. In "Sizing" we look down from overhead on a twentysomething sprawled out in a leatherette chair, engaged in what looks like a marathon bull session with a cohort that at one point involved a bet-settling tape measure left, like a stain, on the floor. Juxtaposed with that indication of measurement is the slightly rude-boy second panel, of a woman seen at breast level.
There is a mix in these images of pregnant moments, tension and sexual possibility that somehow perfectly encapsulates the on-the-cusp sense of expectation and anxiety that defines life at 20. One only has to look at Galloway's focal points to get the idea: beer bottles positioned between parted legs, hairy chests, collarbones curving into decolletage, rumpled sheets, tousled hair. Like "Seinfeld," Galloway focuses on images of "nothing" — an extreme close-up of a man's nipple and sparsely hairy chest as he soaks in the tub, or the barely visible fragment of bra beneath a woman's T-shirt seen from a position just above her head. But that apparent snapshot randomness is loaded with content conveyed in everything from Galloway's use of body language to his choice of clothing. His impressive, formally mind-blowing work is so ripe with meaning it's hard to know where to begin.
Though Eric Mack's technique is often abstract, there is nothing ambiguous in the dizzying effect of his 21st-century sampling. Mack's bold, juiced-up color grids are mixed with found photographs, bar codes, advertisements, even part of a high school disciplinary write-up citing a 16-year-old Mack for "cussing." His arrangements of these tiny squares of visual information into a map-like whole suggest a frenzied, media-crazed 2003 version of the kinetic abstraction of Piet Mondriaan's "Broadway Boogie Woogie." Where some artists would view this media melee with dismay or cynicism, Mack shows his generational global positioning by embracing it: getting deep into the mix, unable to resist the beat.
Mack's works can suggest cityscapes or computer innards or Times Square at midnight: a cloudburst of neon and text, billboards and music leaching out of open shops. But one metaphor predominates. In their sense of energy and cultural collision, most of all Mack's attack brings to mind the archetypal modern mix-and-paste style of DJ culture and music sampling. Mack orchestrates complex melodies from the cultural scraps left behind. The sheer number of pieces, from itsy bitsy 9-inch-by-13-inch pieces to movie poster-sized works, suggest Mack as some new breed Warhol; the artist as factory worker cranking out a consistent brand name product.
There are times in SOLO (x) 3 when artist Melissa Herrington manages to think outside the box she has crafted for herself: a femininity-fetish trap of paintings as purposefully distressed as an antique dealer's faux-aged jelly cabinet. Her iconography of long gowns, flowers and troubled female figures strike an all-too-familiar Southern gothic note for Atlanta audiences who have at times been knee-deep in this overworked genre.
What proves haunting and memorable instead are not those intentionally dreamy images but the more simply stated, open-ended images like one in her "Silent Echoes" series. In it a single bare tree is scratched into rich purple paint. Encircling the trunk is a constellation of glowing yellow dots, like a ring of fireflies or an abstracted wedding band. The simplicity of the image with that bewitching mix of the natural and the supernatural accomplishes more than all of Herrington's overworked, "symbolic" gestures with their showy, romantic grandeur.