Chimento Contemporary is pleased to announce our first solo exhibition with artist Cole Case.
Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt comprises of 8 new oils on canvas and a prolific series of related works on paper exploring Case’s perennial thematic triad of immortal art history, private nostalgia, and ripples in the spacetime continuum. A landscape painter who combines a robust plein air sketching practice with a practiced, deliberate, conceptualism-inflected in-studio follow-through, Case’s apparent subjects are depopulated public spaces -- state beaches, sporting raceway arenas, unremarkable neighborhoods in airport flight paths, coastal harbors. His technique nestles up against naturalism, but he makes liberal use of evocative rendering, archetypal compositional armatures, and invented temporal and meteorological circumstance to create something that both subverts and surpasses “mere” realism.
The exhibition’s title is taken from a drawing that appears in the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse 5, and for the artist, the phrase evokes an unlikely liminal state of both pain and grace, an infinite, spliced moment between heartbeats in which all things are not only possible but unfolding simultaneously. This esoteric construct is given direct physical form in Case’s paintings in which, for example, an entire day’s worth of arriving aircrafts is depicted aloft at the same moment; several solar positions cast contradictory shadows along a quiet side street; or an ordinarily bustling location is depicted void of human life -- an effect eerie and/or magical depending on the viewer’s state of mind. In fact this last motif, the empty arena, recurs in Case’s subjects as both an allegorical structure, instances of locations with personal resonance, and as a way of highlighting the character of the cultivated, ambitious, “artificial nature” that decorates them. By retraining the focus on the false yet living foliage -- on the traces of humanity in the world rather than its visible presence or the distraction of competing narratives -- Case also makes a direct connection between what he is up to and the pantheon of art history’s great landscapes.
His favorite painting at the Norton Simon Museum is by Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, 1628-1682). Three Great Trees In a Mountainous Landscape with River (1665-1670) is the sire of the pictorial space in more than one of Case’s new paintings, with its finessed off-kilter focal point and asymmetrically balanced heft of moody sky. In a Freudian coincidence the majestic tree’s schematic pine needles also evoke the wry “asshole” asterisk drawings in Vonnegut’s other great work, Breakfast of Champions. Another work directly references Courbet’s Grotto of Sarrazine near Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne (c. 1864), which lives at the Getty, in both composition and impasto; its grassy banks deliberately dreaming of Seurat and Wyeth. His nighttime view of a bar in the Culver City gallery district more than echoes Van Gogh’s Night Cafe of 1888. There’s the ghost of Monet in the sunset harbor, the spirit of Manet haunting the American raceway with a parade of luminous clouds like tiny gas lamps, and everywhere airplanes and choppers swarming like seraphim -- all in the service of Case’s gift for layering time, place, era, memory, fantasy, and metaphor inside singular, reified, tableaux that compress and manipulate perception, as only paintings can.
Case was included in Undercurrents: The Paintings of Cole Case and Joan Kahn, at Rio Hondo College, as well as The Painted Desert at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History, curated by Andi Campognone, and Underground Pop at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York, curated by David Pagel. He has shown at Howard House in Seattle, Washington; University of California Irvine, Irvine, California; Cypress College Art Gallery, Cypress, California and the Luckman Gallery at California State University, Los Angeles, among other venues.