The Denver-based painter’s works meld Constructivism, text-based art, and architectural forms into surprising and highly composed images. Among the works going on view in his new exhibition, “Far,” at New York’s Joshua Liner Gallery this week, are paintings that employ vernacular street scenes: images of railway stops, sidewalk corners, signs, and graffiti. He often includes very detailed drawings in the picture plane, sketching people and buildings with a lanky line reminiscent of the German Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, but draws from a graphic arts background designing images for skateboards and street art-like illustrations.
Hecox works from everyday observations and often begins his works with scenes from life or photographs he’s taken on the street. “My interest in cities has mostly to do with how they appear to me through a filter in my own mind where everything becomes like a big, living, abstract painting,” he explains. “It’s the idea of seeing things as beautiful regardless of what their actual function in the real world is.”
In Shibuya Newsstand and Globe LA (all works 2015) Hecox depicts small, city-specific edifices, places where people gather and myriad cultural artifacts are distributed. Just as these sites are intersections of various people, ideas, and media, so too does Hecox compose them with overlapping naturalistic and abstract forms. In the latter painting, showing a Los Angeles theater, he builds a vaporous ground of thinly scraped white paint, over which a line drawing of the theater is erected. A series of concentric circles covers the theater, echoing the globe on its marquee, inverting colors, simplifying portions of the drawing, and adding geometric compositional elements into the scene.
In purely textual works, such as LA 99¢ and El Barrio Democrat Club, Hecox adopts fully the imagery of street signs, playing with and expanding their typographies. The letters become abstracted, rendered more as geometric forms than as messages. The patterns of color, shape, and line, made regular against the painterly background, play order against gesture, legibility against formalism. And like posters by early Soviet artists such as Gustav Klutsis, the text is both abstract and incredibly direct, and always colloquial, from the lives of everyday people. In all of Hecox’s work, the connection to the street and the way it is experienced is a vital, germinal spark.
“Evan Hecox: Far” is on view at Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, May 7 to June 6, 2015.