David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Anthony Pearson. The show will open on July 15 and remain on view through August 26, 2017. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, July 15 from 6:00pm until 8:00pm. The exhibition will consist entirely of wall-based objects, including a new series of works the artist calls Embedments.
Anthony Pearson occupies a quietly antithetical position in a contemporary visual landscape often dominated by speed and bombast. By methodically exploring the possibilities inherent in a small group of materials, his work fosters slow, concentrated modes of perception. In recent years he has focused on hydrocal, a gypsum cement that he has poured, pigmented, and/or etched to create objects of great minimalist beauty. Characterized by subtlety of composition and color, they register otherwise imperceptible changes in the ambient conditions that surround them. Pearson’s exhibitions become total environments in which each individual work anchors the viewer’s experience of variable natural light.
The Embedments, the newest of Pearson’s typologies based in experiments with hydrocal, find him expanding the range of his palette and addressing concerns often associated with painting. He begins by stretching a length of cotton fabric in a wooden frame. He then pours in layers of liquid hydrocal, each of which has been treated with a different pigment, creating an array of hues that flow over and around one another. After the material has set, the work is turned over and the fabric removed, leaving behind the texture of its weave and tiny, embedded cotton filaments. The result is a modulated matte surface that can easily be mistaken for canvas. But these are works in which a painterly vocabulary eventually reveals itself to be sculptural in nature, as color completely saturates the slab of material in which it is suspended. A range of blues, grays, whites, pinks, and violets form interlocking shapes that recall landscape-like vistas and geological formations.
Much in the way that the image in a photograph remains invisible until it has been developed, each Embedment reveals its final form only after the cotton has been pulled away and its true surface is exposed. Photography has played a central and abiding role in Pearson’s practice since its inception (the action of a shutter capturing serial instances of light continues to be a guiding metaphor for the way he produces, edits, and installs his work) and so these new objects also provide an opportunity to reflect on the formal continuities that unite his production across different media and typologies. Unity is also achieved through the artist’s approach to framing, by which he establishes a consistent visual syntax. This in turn allows him to exert and organize a high degree of compositional freedom while maintaining an overall sense of structure.
These qualities are also evident in Pearson’s series of Etched Plaster works. Here he employs set and pigmented hydrocal as a ground for the systematic inscription of linear marks with hand tools. Featuring various iterations on a theme, specifically a circular form immersed in a dynamic field of radiating lines, their imagery evokes astronomical and meteorological phenomena like eclipses and sun flares, and their intricately textured surfaces reflect and absorb light in complex and surprising ways. Pearson tints the slabs with a range of dark gray, black, and brownish pigments, lending them a counterbalancing earthiness. Cerebral, even conceptually-oriented notions of mark-making are thereby expressed in tangibly organic materials using hands-on, analogue processes.
This contrast is a defining feature of Pearson’s project, and one that gets to the heart of its generative contradiction. While he is committed to the careful production of singular, highly tactile objects, the true subject of his practice is the total effect brought about by all of these objects as a whole, whether seen as part of a single exhibition during a specific period of time, or throughout many spaces over the course of many years. Any given work reflects not only the moment of its making, but an ongoing continuum of movement that takes place both inside and outside the framework of art. If it is often barely noticeable and therefore hard to describe, this movement is everywhere: in the gravitational force that moves the hydrocal when poured, in the light that continues to affect and alter our sense of an object’s surface, and in the passage of time that prevents us from seeing an object exactly the same way twice. As such, Pearson brings together the varied legacies of artists such as Constantin Brancusi and On Kawara, creating static forms even as he prompts heightened awareness of fluctuation and change.
Anthony Pearson (b. 1969, Los Angeles) has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis (2012) and Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis (2008). Group exhibitions include Thinking Tantra, Drawing Room, London, and Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University, Plymouth, England (2016-17); L.A. Exuberance: New Gifts by Artists, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2016-17); The Sun Placed in the Abyss, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio (2016); Variations: Conversations in and Around Abstract Paintings, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014); second nature: abstract photography then and now, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts (2012); and The Anxiety of Photography, Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, and Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin, Texas (2011). Pearson lives and works in Los Angeles.