Still Looking: A Still Life Show - Curated by Jonathan Chapline
Jules de Balincourt, Melissa Brown, Jonathan Chapline, Amy Lincoln, Nikki Maloof, Cynthia Talmadge, Paul Wackers, and Robin F. Williams
‘Still Looking: A Still Life Show’ presents the work of eight New York-based artists and their approach to the still life today. As with the Dutch Golden age where objects traveled and traded all come together into one image, this show recontextualizes and gives new meaning to each work, charging the ideas and morphing the meaning behind them as the work travels from New York to Beirut.
The still life as a theme can be traced back centuries to the Egyptian, Greek and Roman periods, providing keys to understanding cultures of different eras. In the height of the genre during the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age, the still life was a way to convey ideas of luxury, trade and status through a collection of expensive imported foods and spices, flowers and tableware. In the 20th century, the still life was used as a vehicle to highlight color, mark making and space with the advent of cubism, abstraction, and surrealism.
Jules de Balincourt’s paintings of carefully placed tools (of protection and of his own trade as a painter) create open ended narratives through the unnerving presence of an anonymous figure. Similarly employing a narrative approach albeit in a more journalistic fashion, Melissa Brown showcases specific kitsch and cultural American signifiers to create a charged scene full of tension.
Paul Wackers and Robin F. Williams utilize the inanimate objects as vessels for texture and color. Wackers exercises various modes of layered mark making from spray paint to thickly applied acrylic to chine-collé scrapings of paint skins from his palette. Williams uses the objects as vehicles for ideas of materiality and beauty in hyper-realism.
Choosing nature as her subject, Amy Lincoln shows nature as tame both within an indoor setting of carefully arranged potted plants and through the outdoors by way of a meticulously groomed garden. Nikki Maloof creates familiar domestic environments to capture a moment in time of the domesticated creatures that live within her scene.
Cynthia Talmadge employs the use of colored sand, a craft material used in weddings to painstakingly assemble large cavernous spaces populated with out of place objects questioning the reality of the image while Jonathan Chapline subverts the familiar by translating historical still life through a digital lens. Chapline appropriates 16th century Dutch still life compositions, placing new objects into the scene to contextualize them.
These eight artists bring together their own voices and strategies and uses the still life to depict symbolism, record history and explore personal narratives. While this moment is in fact just a moment in painting history, we can indeed trust that these artists will still be looking in the future.