Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce galleries, etc., an exhibition of paintings by Shirley Irons. Galleries, etc. continues Irons’ long interest in capturing partial and provocative views of quotidian spaces of a certain category. The series views galleries in such a way to suggest that at times, and perhaps increasingly, context and the identity of the particular space overbears not only the work on display but potentially the visitors to that space as well. These paintings, varied in their color schema and scale, act as a counterbalance and suggest ways to work through the anxieties provoked by ostensibly neutral environments.
Started about five years ago in the midst of a global financial crisis and continued through the lethargic rebuilding of capitalist markets, this series depicts stereotypically inert gallery spaces at once removed from the world at large and sharing in the desolation of spirit that filters in through an occasional window. Galleries have always been austere places of contemplation, but at the time this series was produced, another form of austerity took hold. Austerity as a coherent and seamless system is short-circuited by the way Irons handles paint; she chooses to accentuate and not conceal her facture. Hard surfaces and edges across the series are softened to a comical degree. Where one expects to find a pristine wall, Irons substitutes in a paint finish that expresses no qualms about being the work of human hands. On the contrary, the play of light and shadow that is an increasing rarity in uniformly lighted gallery spaces is emphasized as a way of expressing the contingency of viewing conditions—over the course of a day or several years. Black Gallery and Greene Naftali reveal a range of atmospheric conditions; the former is totally subdued save for sporadic glare on the wall from the spotlights overhead, and the latter is bathed in the late afternoon glow that gives the room a coppery tinge and turns the floor a murky teal shade.
Although it is tempting to subscribe to the notion that all galleries are formulaic and homogenous in appearance, Irons proves that through sustained and deliberate looking, a startling heterogeneity lies in wait. In 976 Madison Avenue, cool, earthy tones sketch out an anonymous corner of the Gagosian’s Upper East Side outpost while in John McCracken at Zwirner, a muted champagne room is nearly completely bisected by a pillar of black, white and gray. In two still lifes, Irons produces a sampling of the innumerable things that fall under the umbrella of et cetera in the show’s title. For a brief moment they reintroduce aspects of life outside the gallery. Galleries, etc. playfully deprecates the insider shorthand and shortspeak that is rife within the spaces on view, but in the formal care Irons takes with her subject, a serious consternation and contemplation, suggestively hopeful, is also present.