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Brandon Anschultz: Pacer at the Contemporary Art Museum

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Brandon Anschultz’s Pink/Green (2012) canvas sits on the concrete floor of a small space used for temporary, one-month exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. Pink/Green is not even a fabric canvas, though; it is glass, leaning up against the wall. And the paint he has applied does not lay on top of the glass, but behind it – an abstract work in a palette of pastels with splotches of bright red-orange. We see Pink/Green only as filtered by the see-through, flat surface which it lies behind, our viewing experience highly controlled by the glass which simultaneously frames, covers, and displays the work.

In Pink/Green, Anschultz focuses viewers in on the inherent qualities of painting, specifically its flatness and the simplicity of presenting paint, brazenly, on (or behind) a flat surface. Although it is a small show, Anschultz’s exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum, Pacer, explores such themes in all the works included. Through often unlikely materials and set-ups, Anschultz directs us to major issues of 20th and 21st century painting, namely materiality, experimentation, and the acts of looking and painting.

Since Pink/Green is the only traditional painting of the show, an oil on canvas, Pink/Green is mounted on a wall across from its glass counterpart. It has the same color palette, but takes a different approach to calling attention to materiality. Here, Anschultz has built up the paint thickly into a sculptural impasto, revealing brushstrokes, possible finger prints, and the undeniable sense that this is painting, post-painting. Shark/Green Wad (2012) is a two-part installation work that alludes to the materiality of painting, but in a sculptural form. On the floor is a thick grey material that looks like an over-sized, three-dimensional paint stroke out of Pink/Green. Above it hangs a similarly textured, abstract, green bunch of latex, attached by a wire to a metal rod, as if to indicate that what is on the floor has fallen from the ‘paint’ blob above it. The work recalls dried paint in a studio, the drip painting style of 1950s and ’60s action painting, and even kinetic sculpture in the way the hanging portion casts a shadow on the wall behind it, changing in size and shape as the sun moves.

Lastly, Peep Show (2012) is an abstract, black-and-tan swirl of black ink and dye on foam. The grainy effect of the ink on the foam really comes through with a visual effect analogous to coarse sand. Peep Show is the most reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionist style of painter Jackson Pollock and the modernist ideals of art critic Clement Greenberg. But Anschultz’s push at the limits of painting is perhaps more akin to Pollock’s early teacher, Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, whose radically experimental New York City workshop has often been overlooked in the history of painting. The small size Anschultz has chosen to work in and his suggestive title point to this painting as something that is handheld and precious, personal and intimate.

St. Louis-based Anschultz, whose interest in materiality demonstrates visual variety and depth in the solo Front Room show, is, according to Chief Curator Dominic Molon, long in coming. Despite Anschultz’s establishment as “one of the more prominent figures in the St. Louis art community,” said Molon, he had not yet been exhibited at the Contemporary; Molon wanted to draw attention to his “very interesting approach to reconsidering the medium of paint and the process of painting.” Anschultz’s show is also an indication of what is to come: the Contemporary is initiating larger, more consistent programming to present St. Louis-based artists more frequently so, Molon said, “we can create an appreciation of artists working in St. Louis within an international context.” For his part, Anschultz does not let us leave without considering the decades-old question of the state and future of painting.

Brandon Anschultz: Pacer continues in the Front Room at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, through 22 April, 2012.

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