June 30 - August 19, 2016
532 West 20th Street
New Tattoo, 1992
Oil on canvas 26 x 38.5 inches
(66.04 x 97.79 cm)
courtesy Anton Kern Gallery, New York, and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago. © Brian Calvin
When Brian Calvin moved from Berkeley to Chicago in the early 1990s, his predisposition toward painterly figuration was broadened through local influences such as the Imagists and the Hairy Who, resulting in a tonal shift in his painting. In his ‘Popeye’ works, Calvin renders the stark cartoon figure in thickly applied paint against a dark brooding background, paused amid mundane activities such as smoking a cigarette, standing in the rain, lying awake in bed. The contrast and stillness creates a sense of unease and focuses the viewer’s attention on the subject’s gestures. Calvin subverts Popeye’s inherent cartoon lightness by reimagining himself in an alternate reality, restaging him in a bleak psychological landscape. With the memory accumulated from drawing this iconic character repeatedly in his youth, Calvin uses the figure’s instantly recognizable shape, and it’s associations, as a vessel for ruminations on pathos.
Brian Calvin, born in 1969 in Visalia, California, has gained a reputation as the painter of “pausing-an-activity,” using a matte palette and skewed cropping in portraits, landscapes, facial features, and reflections that hover uncertainly between states of abstraction and figuration. His recent solo exhibitions include the mid-career survey End of Messages, which traveled from Le Consortium, Dijon to Mu.ZEE, Oostende (2015). Recent group exhibitions include Wild Style, Peres Projects, Berlin, Germany (2016); About Face, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, CA (2015); intimate paintings, Half Gallery, New York, NY (2015); Tracing Shadows, PLATEAU, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea (2015); and The Shell (Landscapes, Portraits, & Shapes), Almine Rech Gallery, Paris, France (2015).