Monday, April 8, 2013

Andrew Kuo - You Say Tomato - Marlborough Chelsea

Andrew Kuo

Why are they crouching? Because they are reading the fine print and in the process learning how to read the painting.
 The next for images all explicate the painting shown above.

A Self Portrait

Andrew Kuo opened his latest show "You Say Tomato" at Marlborough Gallery in Chelsea on Thursday night. Despite being an enormous space the gallery was packed, a testament to both Kuo's work and just how beloved a dude he is in the NY art community. The paintings fill the huge room nicely and the photos here don't do that justice.  

Each of the geometric paintings is actually a carefully constructed chart or graph. The meanings of each field of color are expounded on by a small black and white "key" at the bottom of the painting that explains how to read the chart. These one-sentence explanations are funny "My pizza-topping collection is only interesting to you when I have tabs at the bar." wistful "Fun is re-living all the things you once thought were problems" and philosophical "Everyday is a do over."  There is a lot of stuff to read and examine and it's no exaggeration to say that you could spend hours pouring over these paintings and still miss something.

Via the Marlborough press release :

"The “material” (as comedians say) is, of course, the writing. Hand-transferred to paper at the base of each work, these tragicomic, Tweet-length statements that form the backbone of these works are Kuo’s lyrics, giving resonance and meaning to the melody of painted color and form. They are proof of his commitment and ability to connect with his audience - the “you”. Carefully constructed in short, rhythmic bursts, the texts sketch evocative mental states that are immediately familiar to a viewer. Longing, nostalgia, lamentation for those no longer with us (in one way or another), and the romance of New York are conjured with references to lonely walks through the Lower East Side. The reminders of past romances and lost family members are exhumed by the aromas and ambiance of a favorite food or restaurant, the memory of a song or shared moment. In doing so, Kuo takes us from the particular to the universal, and maps the route."

I think the graph paintings are incredibly beautiful, and despite their deceptive simplicity there is evidence of careful, painterly craftsmanship. Brush strokes highlight the color fields and create a sense of movement that reinforces the flow of the chart. The colors play with one another in exciting ways as you focus on details within the work.

Interspersed among the meticulous charts are several more free-flowing figurative paintings. Subjects include a bouquet of flowers, a self portrait, and a haunting portrait of Jeremy Lin. These serve to soften and humanize the more rigid works as well as showing off Kuo's stylistic versatility.

This is a must-see collection of work, SO GO SEE IT. I also highly recommend that you follow Andrew on twitter and check out his work for the New York Times. For a glimpse into Kuo's private space and thought process, watch this awesome studio visit with Alia Shawkat.