Humor Leads the Way to Humanity in Pat Falco’s Casually Irreverent Work

Artsy Editorial
Nov 5, 2014 9:23PM

For his first solo exhibition at GRIN Gallery, “Great Acceptations,” Pat Falco has installed a variety of his genial work. Falco is based in Massachusetts and runs LAP Gallery in Waltham as well as Boston’s Distillery, an artists’ space and business community. In his capacity as an arts administrator, Falco connects artists, collectors, and social groups. In his work as an artist, he combines styles, art-historical references, and disciplines into a unique aesthetic lexicon.

Falco often melds humor with sincerity, using jokes to express his perceptions of larger social or personal issues. As he explained in a recent interview, “I think humor is just a great way to communicate, even beyond art. It has a tendency to disarm people and bring them in and they want more.” His jokes often combine text and imagery, which wittily subvert one another. In an untitled acrylic painting on paper (all works 2014), Falco has written, “I started painting my dreams.” Below the text, a large black cloud of acrylic paint hangs ominously, suggesting either a dark dream or the erasure of another image. The smeared black paint is suggestive of Abstract Expressionist paintings, such as those by Adolph Gottlieb, but also undermines the romantic and psychoanalytic sensibilities of that earlier movement. Another untitled painting acts in a similar manner, combining casual stripes of orange, black, and yellow with the phrase “New work best viewed with an open mind and closed eyes,” poking fun at pseudo-intellectual abstract art that relies more on rhetorical accompaniment than technical skill or conceptual depth.

In many of his paintings, Falco uses cartoonish faces, depicting unnamed persons looking at one another or at the viewer. In an untitled installation made by tiling various paintings, nine of the artist’s graffiti-inspired figures are interspersed among paintings with iconographic raindrop patterns and hearts, and four text paintings. The combination of text, figures, and imagery, suggests narrative, though a surreal one: two of the characters are conjoined by their shared beard, four identical men at the lower left check their cell phones solemnly, and a man with a cloud of gray hair and a unibrow averts his eyes next to a depiction of a black plastic sack labeled “your entire life’s work.” Another assemblage-like array combines aphorisms about the economics of the art world (“insider art,” “maximum wage”) with black frames and a repeating diamond pattern in various colors.

Similar to other artists who bridge the street with the art gallery, such as Margaret Kilgallen and Barry McGee, Falco’s work is indicative of a younger generation of artists who are open to experimentation and unrestrained by classifications like “figuration,” “abstraction,” “sculpture,” or “painting.” Rather, he connects varieties of representation and artistic voice, as well as contemporary artists and their predecessors.

—Stephen Dillon

Great Acceptations” is on view at GRIN Gallery, Providence, Rhode Island, Oct. 16–Nov. 15, 2014.

Follow GRIN Gallery on Artsy.

Artsy Editorial