Juan Uslé Paints to His Own Heartbeat for New Work at Cheim & Read

Jun 14, 2016 7:54PM

What does a heartbeat look like? Juan Uslé’s paintings have been compared to cardiograms—a remarkably apt comparison. The repetitive brushstrokes in his series “Soñé que Revelabas (I Dreamt that You Revealed)” come from the Spanish artist painting to the steady meter of his own heart.

His other paintings evoke a filmstrip, as if each brushstroke were a single frame, unfolding one after the other. But the only apparatus to “crank” these images is the eye, fast forwarding and rewinding across the painting’s surface. Uslé’s paintings recall cinema on the level of material as well. Each strip of color is simultaneously transparent and deep, like an image in celluloid—or a “porous membrane,” which happens to be the translated title of his new show, “Membrana Porosa,” now at Cheim & Read in New York.

Image courtesy of Cheim and Read.

These large-scale canvases envelop the viewer in lush pattern and texture, much like hanging tapestries. All but one are structured in horizontal bands of color that ebb and flow in intensity; in fact, the paintings in one series take their names from famous rivers of the world.

With his systematic mark-making, Uslé’s paintings don’t just reference the passage of time in filmstrips, heartbeats, and rivers: Thanks to subtle variations in brushstrokes, the artworks themselves possess clashing temporalities. If time is captured in each mark, the variations—in color, intensity, and frequency—help create their very own time signatures.

—Laura Hillegas

Juan Uslé: Membrana Porosa” is on view at Cheim & Read, New York, May 5–Jun. 18, 2016.

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