Traumatic Materiality: Painting Inelegance brings together a diverse group of Los Angeles-based painters in order to examine and question the role that the extreme usage of material plays within contemporary painting. This exhibition draws together eight painters working with extremely different aesthetics, who nonetheless exhibit solidarity as they all counsel/consol a “traumatic” material. While the included artists certainly may not identify directly with the terms “Trauma” and/or “(In)elegance” in efforts to describe their own works or practice, the paintings included within Traumatic Materiality insist on a specific aesthetic identity by way of an over-identification with its own materiality, resulting in exaggerated spills, swaths, globs, heaps, patches, dollops, etc. within the context of painterly composition and arrangement. In addition, the material behavior of paint is also prone to simultaneously become other – textured threads, confectionaries, patterning, still life, figurative, and even narrative in appearance. The trauma or fracture is evidenced precisely here as materiality splinters, unwilling to coalesce around a specific behavior. As paint refuses to identify as a complete and simple material, never fully settling into representational effects or metaphor, these painterly practices oscillate between stratagem and devout transparency, culminating in a type of agnostic abstraction. It may also be possible to describe this emphasis placed on materiality as an (in)elegance: through the flaunting of oil and/or acrylic, all of these painters indulge in deceptively clumsy material handling, while at the same time demonstrating continuity with an elegant refinement and ingenuity in the ways in which painterly forms are pushed, coerced, and developed. These eight painters are simultaneously inelegant and yet exist within a trajectory of innovation that exceeds elegance, culminating in a certain perfect and refined awkwardness.
In spite of the above, or perhaps even because of it, evident within Traumatic Materiality is a sincere devotion to painting and to paint, specifically. This is most apparent in these artists’ use of paint to highlight the impossibilities within its own practice. Each painter may be seen as taking the subject of “painting” as their program, as they simultaneously bracket and frustrate its capabilities, in essence articulating a form of meta-critique. While pinpointing an inherent trauma within paint, these artists also manage to soothe this trauma by cajoling the paint into contemporary expressions of what painting is today — something beyond a literal materiality, and yet without the safety net of a metaphysical program. Many of the artists in this exhibition exercise a hyper-self-reflective/post-medium-specific practice, where common themes such as doubt or irreconcilability become the condition and motivation for legitimate contemporary painterly programs. Ultimately, while paint is used here to highlight a split of trauma, it also serves to suture together multiple realities and/or uses, as all painters are aware of working on the precarious edifice that is painting’s metaphysical ruins.
Nick Aguayo, Jonathan Apgar, Steven Hampton, Cole James, Quinton McCurine, Caitlin Slegr, Ian Trout, Tessie Whitmore