Surface Value

MAY 6 – SEPTEMBER 4, 2011

Surface Value features the work of James Gobel, Alison Elizabeth Taylor, and Mickalene Thomas. Each artist presents a unique vision of American life and lifestyle, exploring pop culture influences, issues of racial and sexual identity, and the varying subcultures that make up our diverse population. Although these three are sometimes called “painters," each one uses media in an innovative way, incorporating fabric, wood, and even rhinestones into the two-dimensional space of the canvas. The influence of art history, whether through imagery or technique, also presents itself in the work of all three, in ways that are innovative, playful, and provocative. All works function on a large, even epic scale, immersing the viewer in these unusual imaginative spaces.

Each artist in Surface Value not only brings an original use of material and surface to their work, but also presents imagery that seems to shine from the artist’s personal universe. Mickalene Thomas’ vivacious and powerful images of African-American women not only glitter and glow with color, but reference and question traditional ideas about portraiture and beauty. Building scenes from small, carefully selected pieces of wood veneer, Alison Elizabeth Taylor presents compositions of an engaging yet slightly harsh world, addressing issues of poverty and isolation from unique corners of the American landscape. James Gobel’s large-scale felt and paint-covered canvases playfully take on traditional notions of male beauty, portraying his everyday life in candy colors and vivid patterns.

Surface Value is organized by Laura Burkhalter, associate curator.

Above: Alison Elizabeth Taylor (American, born 1974)
Bombay Beach, 2008 (detail)
Wood veneer, shellac; 96 x 58 inches
Image and work courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York / Shanghai

entirely unexpected