August 1st, 2014

Covered in plastic sheets, The Hole looks like a construction site or maybe a quarantine zone, which we might need. But look at the airbrushed and spray painted art in the show and you’ll get the reference.  Go With The Flow assembles artists working with sprayed paint, “from aerosol to airbrush” and spanning abstraction, cartooning, and minimalism.


At The Hole: (l-r) Michael Dotson, Trudy Benson, Greg Bogin, Michael Staniak, Zane Lewis

When I think of airbrush, I imagine boardwalk T-shirts; when I think of spray paint, I imagine graffiti. But a bit more thinking opens up other fronts.  According to the gallery:

“Surrealists explored the nascent technology, Kandinsky, too; and really not too much else went on in sprayed painting besides a 60s L.A. airbrush movement or Jules Olitski until the slick fabrication art of the 90s upsurge in industrial painting techniques. After digital technology made the world of images screenic and pixelated, gradients reappeared in painting as a mainly digital aesthetic with compressors the easiest way to achieve them in painting.  Simultaneous to all this, of course, the 70s and 80s birthed graffiti culture, the single most impactful global image movement, and the world’s cities have been covered in spray ever since.”


Katsu (l), Adam Henry (r)

So how do we respond to the relative immobility of a technique native to tourist kitsch, industrial manufacturing, and graffiti?  For contrast, just consider the importance of atomization to agriculture, science, war, and leisure.  Crop dusting still treats some of our farmland, the CERN supercollider uncovered the Higgs boson after smashing particles to make sub particles, and the U.S. has just recently destroyed all of Syria’s weaponized chemical gases, hopefully.  The market for atomized e-cigarette sales is surpassing $2 billion, while the industry for atomized fragrances is rising toward $33 billion.  And Richard Kuklinski infamously killed his victims with atomized cyanide.  On many fronts, our present is atomized.


(l-r) Keltie Ferris, Rosson Crow, Timothy Uriah Steele, Greg Bogin

So for art, why has atomized paint failed to leap to “fine art” from boardwalk T-shirts and automobiles?  Atomized paint mostly remains in the terrain of fabrication, such as powder-coating the surface of a sculpture, and not painting as painting.  A few exceptions come to mind, including the artists in this show.  But after 800 years of Western 2-D painting, the brush still dominates, despite other technological innovations, such as tubed paint, synthetic colors, and reproduction techniques.   Then again, almost all paint originates from pigment, which already is nearly atomized, so maybe there’s your answer: the technology was there from the start.


Dennis Hoekstra

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