Monday, August 24, 2015

ZEKE WILLIAMS at Erin Cluley Gallery

Single Flower (red, purple, cyan, green), 2015,
acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 inches. repost by Todd Camplin

A relatively new gallery on the scene is Erin Cluley Gallery. It is located across the river, over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, in the raising hipster themed neighborhood of Trinity Groves. Erin Cluley, once Director of Exhibitions at the Dallas Contemporary, has brought some of the institution’s aesthetic sensibility over to a commercial setting. Most of her artists look to be flashy and energetic, like the current show titled: Heat Check by painter Zeke Williams a.k.a. writer Thomas Ezekiel Williams. But first impressions can be deceiving.

Upon arrival at the gallery, I instantly disliked this show. I completely wanted to dismiss it as being overly dramatic with garish colors that fade and shift on flat wallpaper patterns. I thought to myself that this was another example of an art fair influenced artist with nothing deeper than the surface. Yet, Williams’ painting stuck in my mind for a while and I just couldn’t shake my experience with his work. For some reason, I was hooked by his simplicity. His depiction of subtle folds in his patterns seemed sensual. Years of visiting Circuit 12 Gallery built a foundation of visual information that put Williams in a greater context with other artists. I don’t think I would have been able to see Williams’ painting in a positive light without that foundation. I also read that Williams was taking images of clothing and zooming in on the figure. Thus this abstracted his subjects without objectifying them. The women in dresses are important, but not in the way a typical “male’s gaze” might depict a model, but rather with a more sophisticated eye.

I was also reminded that I had a similar knee jerk reaction to Nathan Green’s work when I first encountered it. As with Williams, I started coming around upon reflection. I think I came around to Williams’ work faster, because I am starting to see a trend take shape and I think this type of work is beginning to speak to me more readily. A type of painting that feels artificial like a video screen but doesn’t necessarily reference the screen. Williams’ gradient of colors remind me of all that work I did in Photoshop. Williams’ scale and number of paintings for his first solo show helped win me over too. At some point, you see all this brightly painted, patterned works in one room and you are bound to be moved (positively or negative). I don’t think you could come away feeling neutral about the show.

I have to remind myself that we live in an age that is less Renaissance: Michelangelo or De Vinci, but rather in an age of drama, exaggeration, and spectacle similar to that of Caravaggio. So, the artists take on Modernist tropes and play with them in extreme ways. Zeke Williams is taking another crack at Pop art sensibilities without the overt references to recognizable products. Maybe a Pop/Fauves hybrid, because those colors are not natural. Zeke Williams’ paintings will come down July 11th. And if you plan to visit the gallery, don’t worry if you find yourself on the narrow paved pathway, I can assure you that you are really on Fabrication Street.

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