DENZIL HURLEY: DISCLOSURES
During recent visits to Barbados, where he was born, Seattle-based painter Denzil Hurley started thinking about the island’s—and the region’s—history of provisional structures and the make-do ingenuity employed to build and mend things with available materials. His Glyph paintings, mounted on repurposed sticks and poles of various kinds, grew out of these encounters and the connections he made to the practice and critique of abstraction in painting and sculpture. A term of Greek origin, a glyph is a symbol that conveys information nonverbally. But as most of Hurley’s paintings with this title are densely painted in black—while one work frames the blank white wall—these particular glyphs don’t carry images or slogans. Instead they become abstract and point to their form and function.
Many of Hurley’s Glyph paintings resemble placards—the kind carried by participants at rallies, processions, and demonstrations. But in the absence of words or symbols, these signs disclose no allegiance to any cause. They remain vehemently themselves—and as though redacted—their gestalt retaining the resonance of street protests and festivals around the world. At the same time, they also engage the history of painting: double and triple canvases, also known as diptychs and triptychs, have a long history within Western painting. This association changes, however, when Hurley stacks his canvases vertically or otherwise resists the symmetry associated with these historical formats. The monochrome canvases recall especially the bold beginnings of abstract painting. In 1915, Kazimir Malevich’s celebrated painting Black Square revolutionized the course of art and became intimately tied to the most advanced social and political discussions at the cusp of the October Revolution in Russia and the discourse surrounding later events.
If there is a disclosure, as Hurley signals in the title of this show, it is a reminder of the interconnectivity and conjunctions of paintings and signs, part and whole, presence and absence, and the languages of painting and speech.