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Vignettes - Group Show

Richard Heller Gallery, Suite B5a
Exhibition Dates: June 22 - August 3


Group show featuring work by:

Edie Fake
Rhys Lee
Eleanor McCaughey
Justin Liam O’Brien
Benjamin Spiers

Edie Fake:
Edie Fake's paintings start as self-portraits, and from there, they make a break for it, referencing elements of the trans and non-binary body through pattern, color and architectural metaphor. His precise, intimately scaled, gouache-and-ink paintings on panel are structured around the physical aspects of transition and adaptation as well as mental and sexual health.

Since moving from first Chicago, then to Los Angeles while briefly attending grad school at USC, to now the high desert of Joshua Tree in California, Fake’s work has evolved from his acclaimed Memory Palaces series — reimagined facades of urban lesbian bars and gay nightclubs — to a new feeling of vulnerability due to shifts in the U.S. social and political climate. The work blurs lines between architecture and body with structures adorned by elements that seem to be both decorative and protective. Architectural components are used as visual metaphors for the ways in which definition and validation elude trans identities. Says Fake, “More and more I’m trying to bring an anarchy into that architecture, or a fantasy and ecstasy of what queer space is and can be.”

Fake’s recent show at Western Exhibitions was reviewed in Art in America and his drawings, paintings, comics, books and publications have been written about it in artforum, ArtNews, The Comics Journal, Art 21, The Guardian, Hyperallergic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Juxtapoz and were recently featured on the cover of the Paris Review. He was one of the first recipients of Printed Matter’s Awards for Artists. His collection of comics, Gaylord Phoenix, won the 2011 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel. Fake’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including solo shows at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY and Marlborough Contemporary, NYC, and in group shows at the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC and the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU in Richmond, VA.

Fake has work in the collections of the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; RISD Museum, Rhode Island; the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas; and the Thomas J. Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Fake (b. 1980, Chicagoland) received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2002.

Fake's work is currently on view at the Des Moines Art Center’s 2019 show Queer Abstraction 

Rhys Lee:
Rhys Lee claims he doesn’t have nightmares. That is probably understandable. By the time he hits the sack after a long day of painting his night terrors have been expelled, forcibly ejaculated from his subconscious to come to eerie life on his canvases.

These truly beautiful paintings are not for the faint-hearted. They haunt the viewer long after an initial encounter, floating like some dark ectoplasm in the back of the memory, seared onto the retina like some astonishing vision from a dark somnambulistic universe, brought into our world by inexplicable means.

These works stir the imagination in ways akin to a powerful ghost story by the fire. Despite their evident physicality, the sinuous brush strokes, the tactile, visceral mix of paint, they seem to float in an unearthly ether. A part of this is, of course, pure technique. Lee approaches his paintings with both an unorthodox palette and anarchistic spontaneity. He coats his perfect linen in deep stygian blacks and then works his way into the darkness to free his subjects. Odd metallics shimmer and stir within the surface. Colours that should never be seen side by side seem to embrace, creating a bizarre alchemical brew that, even in the dark, seem to step outside the realm of paint into the room, pursuing us for causes unknown.

- Ashley Crawford

Australia-based artist, Rhys Lee (b. 1975) holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts, Graphic Design from the Queensland College of Art (1997). Lee has been exhibiting nationally and internationally for two decades. Lee’s work has been included in Monomania, George Gallery, New York (2018); PABLOPABLOPABLO, Cabinet Printemps, Dusseldorf (2017); Group Show, BEERS London, London (2016); and Shot Off The Dices (curated by Rhys Lee), Nicholas Thompson Gallery Melbourne; Bad Painters, Sheffer Gallery, Sydney (2015). Selected solo exhibitions include Whistle World, Nicholas Thompson Gallery, Melbourne (2018); 10 Paintings & 100 Works on Paper, Nicholas Thompson Gallery, Melbourne; A Knife Through A Hand Through A Table, Ruttkowski;68, Cologne; Riders, Paul Nache Gallery, New Zealand (2017); and Spit Shine, Nicholas Thompson Gallery, Melbourne; Jungle Rum Rumble, Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane (2016). In 2012, he was a finalist in the prestigious Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales; The University of Queensland National Artist’s Self Portrait Prize (2009) and the Doug Moran Prize at the State Library of New South Wales (2009). A monograph of the artist was published in 2009. Lee’s works are held at the National Gallery of Australia; University of Queensland Art Museum; BHP Billiton; Art Bank, Sydney; United Bank of Switzerland; and many private collections in Australia, United States of America, Canada, Germany, Portugal, Denmark and Israel.

Eleanor McCaughey:
Eleanor McCaughey’s work engages with painting as an amalgamation of still life, sculpture and portraiture. It explores contemporary representations of portraiture, referencing the tradition of still life. The work juxtaposes past ideas of identity and power with new ideas, taking reference from elaborately embellished Asmat ancestor skulls, Celtic rituals of the cult of the head, Christian iconography and the modern day selfie.

The work contemplates impenetrable forces shaping our contemporary society, from the ideological to the technological. The portraits are represented in a way that questions how we use social media to construct false impressions of status and authority in an age of displacement and individualism.

McCaughey is Irish artist living and working in Dublin. McCaughey received her BA Hons Fine Art, Dublin Institute of Technology in 2011. Recent exhibitions include ‘The blood-dimmed tide is loosed’ at The Complex Dublin, May 2018. ‘Like Me’, The Dock, Leitrim, February 2018 and ‘There is a policeman in all our heads; he must be destroyed’ at Pallas Projects, Dublin, September 2017. Her work is represented in the OPW state art collection and private collections in Ireland, Europe, United States and Canada.

Justin Liam O’Brien:
Justin Liam O'Brien’s paintings of nameless unspecified male nude figures are wrought with sexuality and alienation. The protagonists are depicted awkwardly embracing, engaging in sexual acts and taking pictures of each other. Drawing inspiration from phone apps such as Grinder, Tinder and Scruff, O’Brien examines the psychological oversimplified social-sexual environment queer people currently inhabit. His paintings explore the immediacy and emotional distance of this current digital landscape, but also the tenderness and feeling.

From the artist:

"I make abstract figurative paintings of nude male figures in domestic scenes. The forms are simplified and curvaceous. The spaces are compressed and carefully composed. They depict queer intimacy, moments of loneliness, passion or indifference. I’ve found these feelings to be recursive and shared throughout contemporary queer life and I’m interested in how the figure can be used to express them. I am making this work as a way of being open about my own experience as a gay man, and reconciling my feelings with casual intimacy and queer love."

O’Brien (b. 1991, Flushing, NY) received a BFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY and an AS in Visual Arts from SUNY Suffolk, Selden, NY. He was recently awarded residencies at Trestle Art Space, Brooklyn, NY and Con Artist Collective, NYC. Recent group shows include Ortega y Gasset Projects and Re: Art Show, both in Brooklyn, NY. O’Brien lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Benjamin Spiers:
Confidently jumping between figuration and abstraction, Benjamin Spiers’ paintings are full of ‘secret details’ which reveal themselves only after prolonged viewing. The suggestive light, the skillful rendition of figurative elements, the sophisticated textures, the careful choice of subdued hues, the unexpected yet harmonious compositions, are some of the elements that instantly grab viewer’s attention before quieter, more obscure aspects of the artist’s personality start to unfurl. “Lots of old master paintings have this,” Spiers says about the way he connects with art, “I get that same thing, but in very different ways, from Mondrian paintings, it’s in De Kooning, in Monet, in John Currin, in Piero Della Francesca and on and on.” Much as contemplation of the classics and masters reveals a hidden world of thoughtfulness and complexity in the paint, the depth of Spiers’ work becomes evident as the viewer’s relationship with the painting gets more involved and sophisticated.

Strongly leaning on intuition and believing in the power of the unconscious to make meaningful choices, Spiers says that “a certain combination of bodily-ness, awkwardness, rawness, unconventional beauty, sexiness, complexity, power, ambiguity, stylisation, open- endedness, and dynamism,” is the key element when picking a subject to work with. No matter if working from a Picasso drawing, an ancient Roman statue, or an abstract drawing of his own design, the performance of painting becomes Spiers’ expression of himself – his uniqueness…

The subject matter is almost reduced to a gateway that opens up a space for the ‘performance of painting’. “Not slippery, gestural performance like Pollack, more a highly intense, laser-focused slow dance with the paint,” Spiers describes his practice on a technical level, and adds, “I need to look at something that I’m going to work from and feel excited by how I can develop it, twist, corrupt, and coerce it into something that talks about my deep-seated feelings about what it is to be alive and looking at the world with an overpowering visual greed.”

- Written by Sasha Bogojev

Benjamin Spiers was born in Cornwall and studied at Goldsmith’s in the 1990s, where he was much affected by his tutor, Peter Doig, who encouraged him in the view that painting could be complex and mysterious. He has exhibited in numerous group shows, notably: The Future Can Wait and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly at Charlie Smith Gallery; Beyond The Human Clay at James Hyman Gallery; Yesteryear, Nowadays at Hales Gallery; and Please Disturb Me at the Great Eastern Hotel. He had a solo exhibition at James Colman Fine Art in 2004, James Hyman Gallery in 2011, and a British Council supported exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts, Puebla, Mexico in 2008. He has been selected for the John Moore’s painting prize at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and was a finalist in the 6th Manifest International Painting Award.

Earlier Event: June 22
Gustavo Acosta: Transpositions