Anselm Reyle and Jon Young: Looking West
January 20 through February 16, 2021
By EMANN ODUFU, February 2022
Morgan Presents is showcasing Looking West, a two-person exhibition of German artist, Anselm Reyle and American artist, Jon Young. On view from Jan 20th – Feb 16th , this exhibition features a selection of their paintings, which are merged through their careful exploration of color and surface and a shared dichotomy of being both insiders and outsiders in the contemporary American art scene.
The title of the exhibition, Looking West, holds different meanings for each artist. Over the twenty-year span of his career, Anselm Reyle has created work in a wide variety of mediums, incorporating a diverse array of materials and often embedding found objects, such as neon tubes and mylar foil into his paintings. His work is unified by his usage of his signature color palette, which ranges from neon yellows, pinks, and oranges to lively greens, metallic and reflective silvers, and deeper blacks. For Reyle , Looking West references an invocation of the American color field painting movement and specifically, American painter Kenneth Noland. Though there is a certain German materiality to his paintings, and an important history of German Abstract Expressionism that we cannot forget, Reyle in effect has looked west across the Atlantic to American movements as an inspiration for his work.
In the series of hybrid paintings, which Reyle has included in Looking West, (all Untitled, mixed media on burlap), we see multiple colors represented in overlapping stripes and patterns accentuated by the burlap base on which they are placed. Atop these layers, Reyle applies various gestural techniques, such as drips, splatters, and scratches of color, utilizing his signature reflective foil to create an effect of iridescence as the viewer moves around his artworks. In Reyle’s work we encounter many elements: burlap, spray-paint, gestural painting, foil and neon, that are meticulously composed and brought to a gratifying resolution. In Looking West, the milestones of the evolution of Reyle’s practice are laid out for the viewer to see.
For Jon Young, the title of Looking West takes on an entirely different meaning, one which reflects the artist’s identity as a Native American who grew up in a US military family and experienced a nomadic childhood moving from one military base to the next. Looking West describes his exploration of the romantic symbols of the American West, his unique relationship to this land as an indigenous American and military brat, and a confrontation of the allure of symbols of America which on the surface are inviting but contain more sordid realities underneath.
This duality can be seen in the works that he included in this exhibition. Similar to Reyle, Young manipulates color and surface to bring viewers in, only to remove the curtain and flip the perspective of what you thought you were seeing. Young includes a series of mixed media works, all in the style of iridescent vinyl upholstery on wood, which make use of symbols of the “Old West” such as horses, a campfire, a cactus, or a lasso. His piece entitled Four Horses is one of two pieces in the exhibition that makes usage of land art. Beneath the plush exterior of the work, lies a wooden box with sand sourced from the Lewis and Clark trail, affixed in resin with a line drawn in it. The line drawn in sand is an obvious metaphor for a figurative boundary that someone or some group cannot proceed beyond. Further, the sandbox grounds the piece, which relies heavily on the iridescent fabrication, into a more organic realm.
With Looking West, Morgan Presents makes another successful pairing of two intergenerational artists whose collaboration on the exhibition allows for a narrative that each of the artists could not have achieved alone, and whose usage of color and manipulation of surface highly complement each other. WM
Emann Odufu is a freelance, emerging art and culture critic, curator, and filmaker who has written articles about assorted art shows over the past year. His work can be found in publications such as the NY Times, Hyperallergic, Brooklyn Rail, Office Magazine and Document Journal. Most recently he has curated Money, a solo exhibition of artist Samuel Stabler, currently on display at the National Arts Club.
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