Sunday, February 24, 2008

Juan Usle at Cheim & Read

A recent series of paintings by Juan Usle on view at Cheim & Read reveals the artist's interest in transferring personal experience into visual constructions. The paintings conversate with one another expressing unique characteristics based on color, line and pattern. They vibrate with blissful shouting, as if color emerge on their own accord and organic form coordinates them into systems of vibrant environments.
Upon entering the gallery the viewer is struck by their immediacy and overwhelming presence. The uniformity between them is not created by the instruments used and the artist intention as much as their ability to create an environment of clarity, spontaneity, organic compartmentalizing, and sinuous grids. The contradicting formal elements of each work make Usle much more than a Greenbergian formalist, he is rather, an AbEx expressionist thats been cultured by the conventional wisdom that is Modernism.
Usle's use of instruments to execute the textile patterning of each stroke crates a static and uniform surface that is contradicted by the movement and fluidity of the curves and shapes they create. In La Escena Perdida, which translates to "The Lost Scene", flat black chords striped by a mark making tool intersect each other, uniting and dispersing in free movement without reference to coordination or choreography. Each strand is a member in this spontaneous dance, spiraling in and out to infinity. The minimal use of color in this painting seems to create a dissection that stalls or amputates each stroke. The ambivalence and allusion, the multi-defining within each painting is also contradicted by the precise and clarity of color, the smoothness of surface, the uniformity of the grid. In Aislados, or "Isolated", a consistent brick pattern spreads throughout the canvas, none is equal in siye to the other, they stand alone and independent forming a crowd of identical difference. Allusions of shadow and three dimensionality makes room for 2 white feather like strokes to reast on the 2nd tier of squares, members isolated from the rest of their group, standing, or laying, or being, in peace, or rather, in paranoiac loneliness. The freedom of interpretation makes the artist intent indeterminate, but the title of each gives a slight clue into the realm of these non-figures, a reflection of the artist's personal experiences and surroundings.
Standing at the center of the gallery, the viewer will easily notice the triptych of square grids on one side, and on the reflecting wall 3 painting of swirly shapes and lines. Its as if these opposing works are 2 identities of 1 form, the duality created within this setting makes for an almost schizophrenic impulse, grounded on non-conformity and ambiguity.
The irony in Usle's paintings is reflected again in Sin Desenlace, "Without Outcome", with its overwhelming layering of form, pattern, and color. Loops, lines, perpendiculars, stripes, patches, all these forms gather, as if at war with each other, fighting to conquer and overtake the surface of the canvas to no avail. The painting is chaotic, an overload of lines and colors that is too disorienting to absorb. But the clarity and smoothness of the surface bring the forms together and comforts the viewer with the safety of the line between us and "them".
The dichotomy that rests in the works of Usle is ingenious in their randomness, in its unplanned multiplicity, and the absolute ambivalence and conflict it creates in the viewer. It is spontaneously a refreshing and flabbergasting experience.

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