The Strangeness Will Wear Off
David Castillo Gallery presents The Strangeness Will Wear Off an exhibition of works in painting by Melissa Brown, Cynthia Cruz, Maria de los Angeles Rodriguez Jimenez, Natalie Frank, Tomashi Jackson, Pepe Mar, Jillian Mayer, Robert Melee, Eamon Ore-Giron, Shinique Smith, Vaughn Spann, and Wendy White.
The Strangeness Will Wear Off proposes the enduring legacy of Modernism as a radical and boundary-pushing form into the contemporary moment. The represented works each look to the long history of twentieth-century art-making as a stylistic reference point to be borrowed, rearranged, and re-explored in the twenty-first. In varying degrees of historical pastiche and revisioning, the artists in this exhibition untangle new approaches in the pictorial strategies of Figurative Expressionism, Action Painting, Minimalism, Neo-Dada and other Modernist movements; and the long-established aesthetics of these forms find renewed context, voice, and relevance through the dynamic experimentation and questioning of these artists working today.
The exhibition’s title takes its name from an unaired 1950 radio interview of Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock, in which he meditates on the conditions and novelties of the art contemporary to any period:
New needs need new techniques… Each age finds its own technique… [The] strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art.
All art is contemporary to its time, and strangeness is the marker of unfamiliarity, of new ideas bubbling up through the visual language of a new age and artistic convention.
Deep early-to-mid-century references course through Eamon Ore-Giron’s striking paintings where repeated patterns, shapes, and limited color palettes feature; we see the influence of Cuban-American abstract painter Carmen Herrera’s minimal geometries intermingled with the vibrant rhythms of Suprematism. There is an impact felt of aesthetic forms borrowed from decorative indigenous practices that find their origins throughout the Americas, and much of Ore-Giron’s work meditates on the long history of colonialism throughout the continent.
In his evocative and deeply personal paintings, Vaugh Spann contemplates dimensionality, abstract formalism, the iconographies of his own childhood, and a wider, racialized history that can be provoked through experimentation with material and pattern. The surfaces of his compositions explode with texture, color, and shape, marrying a subjective, methodical order with a painterly virtuosity; influences drawn from Abstract Expressionism and Postminimalism in equal measure.
Pepe Mar creates bold and energetic fabric paintings in a collage process that loads their surfaces with layered references to art history, the queer club culture of the last thirty years, and his own artistic practice. There are clear affinities to be drawn between Mar’s work and that of American painter Robert Rauschenberg, evidenced in their use of non-traditional materials and an exuberance for drawing from the expansive visuality of popular culture.
Here, strangeness is embraced as a tactic of allying the past’s canonized forms with new and uncharted approaches of the present; a subversive proposition of making what is current and forward-looking feel familiar. Beyond art history, however, The Strangeness Will Wear Off frames new opportunities for engaging with often overlooked and decentered histories of living within a dominant culture as a member of an under-represented class. Borrowing from history to expound upon the present ultimately serves as an allegory of possibilities for productive change into the future.
The Strangeness Will Wear Off bears witness to the lasting cultural impact of Modernism and its manifestations in contemporary art; the acclimatization to and canonization of these forms, and their radical assimilation into the art made today; a strangeness worn off and now made unfamiliar again. The exhibition probes at the means through which artists break uncompromisingly with conventions while borrowing pointedly from the past; a new twenty-first century avant-garde that looks to history in its various forms as a catalyst for what is to come.