Will Fowler at David Kordansky Gallery, Culver City, California
May 19, 2012 — June 30, 2012
In a group of large canvases, Fowler employs both familiar and unexpected techniques, images, and color choices, expanding the breadth of the abstract vocabulary he has developed over the last ten years. Rigid shapes interact with the artist's recurring hard-edged blue-and-red triangles, fields of color, and biomorphic forms. The compositional structure of most of the paintings is dominated by a spider-like form whose legs play hide-and-seek with other elements––"one sided coins trying to grow legs and shuffle away," as Fowler has described them.
Fowler's work continually courts paradox. Skewed arrangements and uncomfortable color combinations create rhythmic and compositional harmony against a backdrop of formalist discord: red is treated as warm, for example, but so is blue. Lines form systems and figures, but defy closed notions of shape. Gestural marks made wet-on-wet are hemmed in by masking, slicing and scratching, subverting expectations surrounding traditional brushwork. These paradoxes seem to stand in for the overall play between instability and precision that asserts itself in variations throughout the exhibition. In this way, each individual painting contains a multitude of parts that have been combined in different arrangements across the body of work as a whole.
Any apparent systems within Fowler's paintings are not pre-programmed agendas, but indicators of an evolving totality of gestures, color choices, and patterns. Accordingly, these physical and visual 'units' come to take on psychological, metaphorical, and narrative characteristics. Though the teeming complexity of his pictures prevents any strictly symbolic readings, there are frequent moments when these units coalesce into a recognizable grammar of forms. Their properties suggest latent tragi-comedies of growth and decay, in which discrete shapes and patterns are vampirized by the fields that surround them, or vice versa.
Representing one example of this tendency, the pattern of red and blue spikes that has been appearing in Fowler's work for the last few years (perhaps most notably in the smaller-format Turnip paintings of 2010) also shows up in the paintings on view here. The thickets of red and blue triangles separated by white borders are optically active constructions that are simultaneously field and figure. The interjections they propose can come across as awkward or stabilizing, but in either case become points of reference within the paintings' shifting archaeologies, places where the impulse to impose formal rigor becomes the inevitable product of open exploration.
Will Fowler's work was recently on view in Transmission LA: AV Club, MOCA at The Geffen Contemporary. In 2007, Fowler was the subject of a solo show at White Columns, New York. This is the artist's third solo exhibition at David Kordansky Gallery. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
David Kordansky Gallery
3143 S. La Cienega Blvd. Unit A
Los Angeles, CA 90016