Caught within the barrage of historical and contemporary images, Andrew Gbur’s recent paintings and Eleven Rivington creates a pathological relationship with images that renders the artist and the viewer spellbound but in dark isolation. At the Rivington location, Gbur covers the walls with three large-scale paintings that are striking but will shake the viewer for their sporadic selection of imagery. The backgrounds consist of grids or stripes, patterns extracted from modernist vernacular of geometric abstraction, silkscreened in bright colors of red, yellow, or green. Overlaying those patterns are collages of pop images of faces, lights, alters, batteries, or clothes that, when composed in symmetrical orientation, invite the viewer to explore the cryptic language that Gbur provides for his paintings. The patterns and images become a powerful alter-like composition similar to medieval paintings but put into contemporaneous context for the use of pattern and images, uncanny to the viewer. The images are recognizable from life but can only be understood as a formal grouping. Placement and form, more than symbolic content, creates the context of the fantasy world created in the geometrically open, but chromatically and imaginarily assaulting, paintings. What these paintings present is an architectural formation of the uncanny- the nonsense of everything that should make sense (recognizable images and orderly pattern).
At the Chrystie street location, Gbur continues with this project with eight renderings of smiling faces generalized by isolating specific aspects of the face- hair, eyes, nose, and mouth- into specific shapes of bright and assaulting colors. The faces are larger than life, confronting the viewer like sidewalk advertisements confront a walking pedestrian. However these patches of color have a torn paper quality, as if rendered by a child. The faces stare out of the painting, not necessarily at the viewer, and into empty space. This emptiness and child-like play gives the warmth of a smile a precarious makeover, providing a haunting after-taste for their dominating but enigmatic presence.