Looking at Geoff McFetridge’s paintings, the artist’s penchant for commercial graphic design is clear. His minimal, boldly colored shapes and simple depictions of urban life echo 1970s advertisements and hyper-stylized logos. Yet unlike most advertisements, the Canadian, Los Angeles-based McFetridge’s works carry within them a hint of melancholy quiet. An exhibition of his new works, “It Looks Like It Says,” goes on view this week at Joshua Liner Gallery in New York.
McFetridge’s design studio has worked on title sequences for filmmakers Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola, as well as shoes for Nike. Accordingly, in his fine arts work, the designer says he speaks in what he refers to as “design language”: the signs and symbols that have become second nature to many modern viewers. “Design language has a relationship with abstraction, is very accessible to me,” McFetridge has said. Though the works themselves are figurative—a person’s face gives birth to a simple, billowing cloud of smoke, a woman carries an unwieldy, architectural stack of blocks—the uncanny nature of their compositions read as parables or spooky urban myths.
McFetridge’s is a labor-intensive and extraordinarily fastidious process, which he has likened to putting together a puzzle. Rarely using physical reference images, the designer draws his first marks exclusively from memory, giving his figures a dreamy, cartoonish character. Once finished, the original drawing is scanned into a computer, where McFetridge tests out color palettes to find the perfect tones and shades to fill out the compositions. Often, he will go back and trace from these drawings and render them digitally before finally committing to them, realizing them as acrylic paintings on canvas. “The process involved,” he has explained, “is that of drawing and redrawing an image until only the most essential pieces are left.”
These essential pieces take the shape of carefully considered complementary colors, some in grayscale, shades of beige, or moody blue spectrums. McFetridge’s figures, in particular, speak to the graphic designer’s interest in abstraction. In The Beach Seen Through Limo Tint (2015), a woman in a bathing suit is thoughtfully constructed from only a handful of smooth shapes. It is a scene reminiscent of L.A.’s dark noir side, created with the seamless construction of modern furniture.
— Molly Osberg
“It Looks Like it Says” is on view at Joshua Liner gallery, New York, Sept. 10–Oct. 10, 2015.