Joe Reihsen “Structural Color”

The Hole

poster for Joe Reihsen “Structural Color”

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The Hole presents “Structural Color”, the second solo exhibition at the gallery by Joe Reihsen. While his debut show in 2016, “About Face” offered New York audiences a comprehensive look at Reihsen’s techniques and styles, this exhibition focuses closely on a new body of work introducing the paradox of iridescent color and a smooth surface.

Joe Reihsen has exhibited widely in LA and Europe and could be said to have pioneered a new way of painting in the abstract: creating brushstrokes on plastic that are peeled up and adhered to a painted surface. The strokes grew and glowed and were sprayed to have a dramatic topography; across a diversity of paintings, they were giant skins or tiny holographic blips. The paintings had big, muscular movement—almost ab-ex—varied marks and textures but they also somehow looked digital or computer-generated. This led to Reihsen being seen as a pioneering digital-era painter who actually doesn’t use computers or digital output at all.

In this new show “Structural Color,” Reihsen has again invented a new way to make an abstract painting, again making something with just paint that is mind-bogglingly not digital in any way. These works are made more like a monoprint: paint from one surface is transferred to another surface on a plastic sheet. Elaborate armatures and physical effort were deployed in creating these paintings, especially the twelve-foot pieces. Here, with the assistance of clear matte medium, airbrush, and some magical wet-on-wet acrylic behaviors, the artist has once again innovated within the medium.

These pieces are both super smooth surfaced and iridescent with color. Metallic looking and oil slick, the new paintings shimmer and glow, almost in the manner of a butterfly wing, soap bubble, or peacock feather: what is known as structural color. While not microscopically textured to interfere with visible light (as some feathers, beetles, or berries are), the paintings instead have an almost lenticular design, where opposing sides of each painted “cliff” are hit with different hues. The paintings look wet with color - sticky with it - yet touching them (please don’t touch them!) reveals they are totally smooth.

The paintings are composed in multiple “transfers,” sometimes with changes in alignment, sometimes transferred only partially, as the artist “scribbles” a wiggly line across the plastic sheet to transfer only that line of paint onto the canvas. The compositions take on grid structures, as a layer of horizontal painting is applied to a vertical layer; two works in the show are print partners, with the same shape of paint transferred back and forth, creating a “variable edition.” One of the enormous paintings has a six-painting transfer with different “screens” lining up to cover the expansive canvas.

While obviously doing some very advanced things with acrylic, the artist is not overly obsessed by his process and instead focuses on creating thoughtful compositions and color combinations. Building up a painting in layers is of course very classical; here, however, the artist doesn’t have complete control of each layer; with clear gel or white paint as like the “glue” for the acrylic colors, the transfers aren’t always visible during the application of layers. A lot of happy accidents form, and a lot of unhappy accidents get removed or discarded: it is an intuitive process through this pretty uncharted water.

The surfaces look scraped and gritty, torn or squeegeed, scribbled or sanded. Some of the transfers seem torn or wrinkled, some are slopped and gooed or snowed-in with white. The most shocking aspect is that all these diversely evocative surface textures come across on a completely smooth acrylic painting. A Gerhard Richter squeegee painting is a giant squeegee dragged over so many layers of semi-dry oil paint; here we find the same trust in his materials and intuitive craftsmanship, but a very different material, and a relatively recent invention: acrylic paint.

Commercially available only as early as the 1950s, acrylic paint came to the fore in fine art shortly thereafter. Untethered to the great historical oil paintings of the past six centuries, acrylic took on modern life in a direct way. Just as Judd celebrated plastics and industrial materials as the perfect media to tackle modern concerns, Reihsen uses it in the digital era to create a non-space where layers of essentially liquid plastic give the illusion of vibrancy or life. Though his method of building up with layers mimics the layered functionality of Photoshop, he is only a “post internet” painter in so far as he looks at how the internet augments Modernist anomie. Almost all his paintings take their titles from Craigslist “Missed Connections” and he has likened being an artist to sending a different kind of hopeful “message in a bottle.”

Through a more poetically-minded lens, the paintings in “Structural Color” are a contradiction; their iridescence suggests a three-dimensionality of surface that almost magically isn’t there. Instead of pure abstraction, they are all in a sense trompe l’oeil works. Their physical objecthood is insistent, while their window into an alternate reality is equally enticing: their artificial light drawing you to them, their artificial depth waiting to be explored. Just like structural color in the animal kingdom is used to attract a mate, evade predators, or even communicate over long distances, here iridescence is used to confound and seduce the viewer. Whether these paintings communicate over long distances is yet to be discerned.

Joe Reihsen was born 1979 in Minnesota and lives and works in Los Angeles. Solo exhibitions at Praz-Delavallade in Paris, LA and Brussels; Brand New Gallery in Milan; Anat Ebgi in Los Angeles; group shows at Arsenal in Montreal, with Lawrence Van Hagen in London and many others; art fairs around the world; all have established Reihsen as an important new voice in abstract painting.



from March 08, 2018 to April 08, 2018

Opening Reception on 2018-03-08 from 18:00 to 21:00


Joe Reihsen

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