It is since the rise of Abstraction at the beginning of the past Century that the relevance of figuration in Contemporary art has been debated, often leading to long periods of neglect. But even when disregarded as outdated, unintellectual and almost trivial, figuration rhythmically kept on returning stronger and more revolutionary than the very revolutions which tried to bury it. Its directness and its capacity to communicate and to convoy the ideas, trends and aesthetics of the contemporary world have proven countless times that figuration will always have a part to play in the art world.
If we look closely at the most relevant new directions in American art right now, it is clear how figuration has come back and it is actually in full swing. It can be hidden in seemingly abstract compositions as much as it can be so obviously central in a work of art to become borderline illustration. The artists which are part of this new figurative wave like to play with this kind of boundaries mixing digital aesthetics, comic characters and classical painting. The result is a multitude of directions with one point of connection, the newness and renewed relevance of an art which speaks again with images.
Jonathan Chapline is one of the most intriguing figures among these emerging figurative artists. He analogically paints and sculpts still lives taken from a digital yet oneiric world, which fascinates the viewer with the soft light and unnatural stillness of their suspended atmospheres. Chapline — together with illustrator Lorraine Nam — is also the founder of the online platform #FFFFFFWalls. Since 2012 they interviewed some of the best emerging and established artists in New York and their website has allowed their followers to have unique insights into this ever—growing artistic scene. For these two reasons Chapline plays a key—role in this exhibition, both as participating artist and as the curator behind this variegated and thoughtful survey.
#FFFFFFiguration is an investigation into figuration, a journey through eleven very different yet intertwined approaches to it. We can get lost following the hypnotic and intricate hair’s patterns of one of Julie Curtiss characters, we can discover images under the almost abstract paintings of Ted Gahl and Sarah Faux or observe the digital world meeting our own in one of Michael Dotson artworks. In this exhibition we can find comics as in Clayton Schiff’s drawings, glittery rainbows as in Hein Koh’s soft sculptures and we can enter the surreal landscapes and blurred still lifes populating the works by Jennifer J. Lee. Classic figuration is reinvented as in the paintings by Zuriel Waters and Andy Pomykalski while painted words merge into the overworked surfaces of Alicia Gibson’s oeuvre. With #FFFFFFiguration Jonathan Chapline offers us an insight into some of the utmost captivating new ways of figuration in New York right now.