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Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
2685 S La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 | T 310 838 6000

Gail Roberts


Sep 06 - Oct 11, 2008

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Gail Roberts


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press release


GAIL ROBERTS: Accumulations

Luis De Jesus Seminal Projects is pleased to announce two concurrent exhibitions: CHRIS BARNARD: No Exit and GAIL ROBERTS: Accumulations, opening September 6, 2008 and continuing through October 11, 2008.

For his debut solo exhibition at Seminal Projects, titled No Exit, Chris Barnard will present a series of new paintings that examine the connections and gaps between landscape painting and contemporary socio–political events. The work represents Chris Barnard’s ongoing interest in the representation of the American West and, more specifically, on the manifestations of American expansion and its consequences on various environments. Employing compositions that suggests these relationships and provoke the viewer into considering more closely the various meanings and symbols they find, his approach results in paintings that allude to the extent of the militarization of American culture without celebrating its violence. When viewed together, the paintings hint at a subtle yet looming, pervasive military presence to which Barnard is trying to re–sensitize himself and the viewer in order to address the potential and actual violence of U.S. military power where they may not expect it. However, these indirect links also represent his desire to create the richest paintings possible, without strictly fixed meanings, where natural and human–made elements have both ‘civilian’ and 'militarized' connotations, but where meanings and connections expand with the viewer’s own interpretations. For example, in the show's namesake painting, entitled “No Exit”, a large black cloud looms over the viewer, sprouting from a small orange dot at the bottom edge of the canvas. This work evokes not only the generic “black cloud hanging over [us]”, but also oil wells set ablaze in Iraq, the pervasive feeling of the U.S. government’s lack of an exit strategy there, as well as Jean–Paul Sartre's play that defines humans' existential conundrum: “Hell is [us].” While such references are intended, Barnard also hopes the painting provides an image and viewing experience that is powerful enough to generate many more.

Formally, Chris Barnard continues to experiment with and manipulate the tools of perspective, color and paint quality while depicting imagery loaded with gravity and relevance. Many paintings place the viewer in a particular position in relation to what she/he sees, alluding to how one's attitude and point–of–view determines so much about our life experiences. For instance, confronting such compositional elements as a B2 Stealth Bomber or a field of poppies in real life would be drastically different depending on who someone is (American or Iraqi or Afghan) and where one is standing. In addition, by broadening the range of color and paint textures, Barnard hopes to draw attention to the idea of surfaces and representation – what is real, what is not – and, specifically, how can a painting accurately deal with issues of conflict, violence and death, if at all? Often these formal aspects vie with the imagery for the viewer's attention, mirroring the inherent conflict between an artwork's subject matter and its representation: its myriad formal qualities – flat, slick, oily, drippy, thick, chunky, matte, etc. – and its infinite number of exciting colors. In making paintings about conflict that exhibit some conflict of their own, Chris Barnard brings the idea of focus – both his own and the viewer's – to attention, and continues to question and explore the role and act of painting as a way to engage with current events.

Chris Barnard received his MFA from the University of Southern California in 2005 and BFA from Yale University in 1999. Most recently, this past Spring, he had a solo exhibition at the Denison Museum in Ohio, and, in September 2007, participated in the exhibition This Is My Country at Luis De Jesus Seminal Projects.

For her Seminal Projects debut, esteemed San Diego artist Gail Roberts will present a new series of paintings titled Accumulations. In Accumulations, Roberts juxtaposes the natural and the man–made in paintings that are memorials to the amassing of material items – synthetic and organic, permanent and fugitive – collections that take years to acquire, such as a library of paperbacks, versus a layer of freshly fallen leaves that gather in minutes. The piles of objects in Roberts’ paintings refer to patterans, or trails, a word originating in Europe for signs used by travelers as messages left for the purpose of informing any of their companions, who might be straggling behind, the route which they had taken. Patterans were made of natural materials, such as handfuls of grass thrown on the ground or stones heaped in cairns. They were markings at cross–roads, sometimes seen at a great distance, ordinary objects used to trace a path back to a place – Hansel and Gretel style – though they are commonly things that don’t look out of place and can't be easily disrupted. Seen within this context, the steep pyramid piles in these paintings are inadvertent trail–markers of our current time.

The paintings in Accumulations also refer to modern landfills and the concept of returning all things back to their organic origins. Because of recent changes in their life and living situation, Roberts and her husband have established a symbiotic system of trade with the local landfill – simultaneously discarding and acquiring. Landfills signify the ‘war on waste’, but the paintings are intended to illuminate what is overlooked as a means of contemplating and reassessing what is valued and what is thrown away. Landfills eerily represent the huge quantities of abandoned goods generated by the masses; these paintings reference the accumulations of one household. In a review published in Art in America, the critic Robert Pincus writes: “Spend time with her [Roberts] art and you are likely to feel the collapse of distinctions between the natural world and the things we fabricate...This method of of blurring the boundary between nature and culture has the aura of pantheism hovering about it, and a viewer could get the impression that Roberts is indulging in the visual equivalent of new–age poetry. But that underestimates her sophistication. She is exhorting us to see nature as a luminous mirror of our ceaseless obsession with mortality. As her artist statement says, seeing nature wax and wane around her, she has become acutely aware of the fragility of life. Landscapes are radiant texts, if you take the time to learn how to read them. The notion is Emersonian or, if we look to the parallel in 19th–century American painting, Luminist. Roberts has become a vital artist in this tradition.”

A graduate of the University of New Mexico, Gail Roberts is currently on the faculty at San Diego State University. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, The Lux Art Institute, Oakland Museum, Tamarind Institute, and numerous other public and private collections worldwide.