Kristian Alanson Bruce
Andrew Bae Gallery is pleased to announce “Appearances to the Contrary,” a group show of the work of three Chicago-based artists, Dabin Ahn, Salvador Dominguez, and Kristian Alanson Bruce, whose practices interrogate visibility and invisibility.
Salvador Dominguez (b. 1985, Zacatecas, Mexico) uses molds of everyday objects to construct mixed-media paintings that reference the material culture of his Mexican-American heritage. These paintings simultaneously hide and reveal the objects he references: they become legible only as shadows of their former selves, their mundane origins reshaped and elevated by the artist’s hand.
Dominguez is inspired by the manual labor of his parents. As a child growing up in Pomona, California, he frequently helped his father with repair tasks. One day, while helping his father with some painting, he noticed that when the paint in the plastic roller tray dried, it could be peeled off like a skin that retained the shape and texture of the tray.
Dominguez has developed this technique, deftly sculpting, cutting, and arranging reliefs cast in acrylic paint into quilt-like compositions. He makes silicone molds directly from each surface, which pick up the delicate detail of the weave of fabric and traces of dirt from street objects. These tiles of layered paint, taken from surfaces as diverse as manhole covers and embroidered tortilla holders, are filled with the delicate textures of diamonds, dots, and floral motifs. Like carefully designed mosaic patterns in house interiors, they reference the unseen labor of the home and street. “I see these as markers and maps,” Dominguez says of his work. Their subjects, which point to larger questions of class, race, nationality, and gender, hover just beyond the bounds of his work. By referencing these mundane surfaces, Dominguez communicates the importance of these forms of material culture to a larger public and revalues overlooked craftsmanship in the public and domestic spheres.
A slight humor hovers behind the paintings of Kristian Alanson Bruce (b. 1994, Bozeman, Montana), which employs a surrealist language of symbols, such as ladders, butterflies, fountains, disembodied limbs, and swimmers. Employing a lush range of blues and greens, these scenes are set in bodies of water, dense jungles, and clear skies. The dreamlike quality of these images emphasizes Bruce’s distinctive mix of the calamitous and the mundane.
Bruce’s approach to oil painting involves a wide array of textured brushwork, from the frenzied lines in the water of “Iris, Swimmer, Dreamless, and Dim” to shapes made by wiping away paint. These patches of bare canvas imply gaps in meaning that loom with an intense emptiness over the composition. In his most recent body of work, Bruce incorporates texts into his canvases, pointing to his interests in language and contradiction. These loaded signs point to a constellation of meanings that hovers just beyond reach.
The artists in this show have a diverse approach to materials. While Dominguez uses the material shadows of everyday textures to transform the medium of acrylic paint, the highly crafted and polished work of Dabin Ahn (b. 1988, Seoul, Korea) are the result of extensive testing and fine-tuned application. Ahn’s work questions the limits of seeing. In his sculptural paintings, the appearance of a work walks a fine line between visual phenomena and conceptual framework. His work plays with optical illusions; in a series of bullseye-like canvases, the center of the composition looks from a distance like a cut-out to the wall beneath, but are actually carefully painted and lit to resemble it. These subtle tricks keep the viewers on their toes.
Ahn first composes his paintings in Photoshop, where he fine-tunes the color and shadowing. He then projects the image onto the canvas and uses it as a guide to realize his work. Ahn impeccably renders the machinemade quality of the images files -- he frequently paints with makeup brushes. Often using pill-like shapes and bold primary colors, as well as jewelry-like detailing like brass trim and carefully applied enamel, Ahn’s work brings the digital mockups into lushly colored and rendered forms.
Taken together, the work of these three artists conjures the possibility that while seeing is believing, a painting can be much more than it appears.
-- Leah Elizabeth Todd Gallant