RARE is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Jim Wright entitled Tolerable Barbarians, which opens February 10 and runs until March 10. This marks the artist’s fourth solo show with the gallery, having previously exhibited here in 2003, 2005, and 2007.
With his new series of six paintings, Wright enthusiastically explores the concept of originality by looking to art history, re-contextualizing and juxtaposing its imagery vis-à-vis his own. He questions contemporary trends in art sampling while accentuating the importance of the artistic process. Through his own eclectic painting process, the artist attempts to emphasize and intensify human and metaphysical experiences, seeing them as a road to achieving meaningful artistic expression. Wright questions the validity of the current propensity to “beg, borrow, and steal” from the “old and new masters,” which has resulted in a form of aesthetic self-cannibalization that caters to presumed expectations and results in art as mere entertainment.
To make his point, Wright purposively references previous generations of famous artists, incorporating facsimiles of their styles and subject matter into his unique painting process/style to give them relevance to contemporary events and issues that have influenced his life. His work melds together art historical styles, famous cultural events, and fictional scenes and characters. Figures from Van Gogh’s landscapes merge with fictionalized pastoral settings and with modern cultural allusions such as David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. The events of the Rolling Stones Altamont Raceway tragedy are depicted with Hell’s Angels intertwined with artistic monsters cribbed from de Kooning, Bacon, and Guston. This marriage of imagery, style, and content is Wright’s way of underscoring how important it is for today’s artists (including himself) to learn the importance of looking to the past as well as to the present, of examining one’s inner life as well as reaching outward to the world-at-large, to gain meaningful expression in their work.
Wright amplifies his process, medium, and subject matter so that his paintings appear to be “amped up” – it is his way of railing against the banality of expression, fighting against the attenuated, bypassing the utterly derivative. He plunks down what he borrows right in the middle of scenarios that are meaningful to him, showing respect for connections to an aesthetic past while breaking new ground for his own expressive impulses, many of them rooted in music. So much of Wright’s painting is influenced by a life spent immersed in music and the life-affirming benefits it offers. From an early age he participated as a musician in subcultures of rock ‘n roll and country music, which gave him a glimpse into a way of life that was both nurturing and idyllic in many ways. Music became a starting point for his paintings in which he depicts invented alternative societies indulging in various cultural pursuits that stand as antidotes to a closed off, bottled up, and stuffy world.
Further highlighting his quest to paint against the grain, so to speak, Wright makes work in a highly original way. Using paint but not a brush, he squeegees acrylic medium into hand-cut templates of various shapes and sizes that he has attached to thick glass or plastic sheets. Once the paint has dried, Wright peels it off the sheets and attaches it to wood panels, creating paintings step-by-step in much the same way one would construct a collage or model. He often gives sculptural dimension to his surfaces by layering his shapes in silhouette one on top of the other, building them up in places to more than an inch above the panels’ surface.
Wright received his BA from the University of Vermont (Burlington) in 2000, and his MFA from Hunter College (New York) in 2004. He most recently participated in group shows at Tremaine Gallery, Lakeville, CT (2010); RHYS Gallery, Boston (2008); and Black and White Gallery, Brooklyn (2007). In 2004, his work was included in the The Young Americans group show at Hof & Huyser in Amsterdam; this was followed by a solo exhibition in 2006 at Galerie Schuster/Scheuermann in Berlin. His paintings and works on paper were exhibited in a two-person show in May 2007 at Galerie Schuster in Frankfurt.