Gallery Y: Michael Stillion, “In the Belly of a Whale”
Gallery X: Ed Valentine, “Still Lifes”
January 22, 2016 – March 12, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, January 22, 2016, 6-9pm
Artist Remarks: Saturday, February 20, 2016, 2-5pm
Linda Warren Projects is pleased to kick off 2016 with a pair of solo exhibitions by gallery artists Michael Stillion and Ed Valentine. Both of these painters are masterful image-makers, however the contents of their works go far beyond the literal interpretations of their subject matter. For Stillion, not only does the apparel heavily shrouding his figures suggest something other than itself, but even his choice of palette has symbolic meaning. In Valentine’s series, his imagery runs the gamut from abstract and gestural to hyperreal, though his set of self-imposed formal and theoretical rules are the catalyst to his compositions.
In “In the Belly of a Whale,” Cincinnati-based artist, Michael Stillion continues his unique method of exploring the painted figure by not painting the figure at all. Rather, the artist focuses on the accoutrements: shoes, hats, piles of scarves and heavy layers of clothing. As the artist notes, when viewers see a glove or a hood, our memories inevitably construct a reference to the body beneath them. This kind of automatic recollection embodies one of painting’s most magical qualities: illusion. The invisible, imagined body inside the clothing is for Stillion a kind of “ghost” –a notion he also translates into a series of monochromatic drawings and laser cut steel works. Here, the “ghost” takes on a physical form, its minimal aesthetic investigating how little visual information is necessary to create meaning.
Red, white, blue and yellow are the predominate colors within Stillion’s paintings; these four colors are of particular importance, each representing an element that sustains human life: red representing blood/life, white signifying milk/food, blue suggesting sky/weather, and yellow symbolizing gold/money. The presence of these things that we all have in common is countered by elements in the paintings that are specific to the artist’s own experience, like the arrow shot through a painting by Stillion’s sister, or the floret of acrylic paint created by Stillion’s mother, a baker. Stillion likens this amalgam of the universal and expected, and the unique and unexpected, to opening the belly of a whale: “You’ll find a lot of krill or shrimp, of course, but sometimes you may find a shoe or a tire.”
The title of Ed Valentine’s exhibition, “Still Lifes,” is deceptively simple. The Columbus-based artist has departed from his long-time portraiture practice, and here, formalism is king. These are certainly “painter’s paintings” in that Valentine’s decision-making process is based upon the concerns of art history, rendering illusionary space, and creating harmony within the rectangle of the canvas. That’s not to say that Valentine obeys convention. Rather he draws from painting’s different tropes at will, combining representation and abstraction, flatness and dimensionality, and realism, illustration and pure gesture.
Above the doorway of his studio, Valentine has written the phrase: “Four to Six Elements in Visual and Conceptual Harmony.” This mantra of the artist’s own words is a guideline for the number of different aesthetical choices within each painting, as Valentine adjusts each drip and brushstroke, and contemplates images, shapes and color. In “Still Lifes,” all-over patterns of white and colored stripes flatten the paintings’ backgrounds, as smears of paint, cartoon animals, graphic lettering and trompe-l’oeil foodstuffs cavort in the foreground. Still Life with BB Holes, Painted Pear and Learn to Draw Rodent features a precisely painted pear, recalling the lofty, still-life masterworks of art history, while the “Learn to Draw” character references the magazine page margins that claim anyone can be a world-class artist. Together, these kinds of juxtapositions provide the knowing, tongue-in-cheek humor underlying Valentine’s oeuvre.
Michael Stillion is a Cincinnati-based artist whose work has been exhibited in such venues as Columbus Museum of Art, Indiana University, Vaudeville Park in New York, Roswell Museum and Arts Center in New Mexico, University of Louisiana, Miami University in Ohio, and 1305 Gallery in Cincinnati. He has been the recipient of such honors and awards as the Joan Mitchell Full Fellowship at Vermont Studio Center, and an Ohio Arts Council Grant. Stillion received his BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design, and his MFA from Indiana University Graduate School of Fine Arts. This is his third solo exhibition at Linda Warren Projects.
Ed Valentine is an artist based in Columbus, Ohio and Jersey City, New Jersey. His work has been exhibited at Avenue B Gallery, New York; Envoy Enterprises, New York; Columbus Museum, Columbus, Ohio; Phillis Kind Gallery, New York; Union de Banques Paris; The Burton Gallery, Los Angeles; Ovsey Gallery, Los Angeles; The National Moravian-Silesian Theater, Ostrava, The Czech Republic; and Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, amongst many others. His work has been reviewed in such publications as the L.A. Times, Art Ltd., and the San Francisco Chronicle. Valentine received his BFA from The Columbus College of Art and Design, and his MFA from The Ohio State University. At The Ohio State University in Lima, Valentine is the Foundations Instructor and Art Department Head, and the Curator of the Farmer Family Gallery. This is his third solo exhibition at Linda Warren Projects.