Thursday, November 7, 2013

Repackaged by Richard Garrison at Robert Henry Contemporary

Richard Garrison
Circular Color Scheme: Sears, March 10-16, 2013, Page 1. “This Is Color”, 2013
Watercolor, gouache and graphite on paper 
25" x 25"

Richard Garrison re-envisioned the commercial landscape through his process of selection, abstraction, and categorization. In Garrison’s world, the landscape of Walmart’s back-to-school packaging becomes a spinning wheel of vibrating colors; months of painted parking lot observations result in a grid of grey spattered with a square of yellow; Christmas tree shops in July become radiant spirals of a cool rainbow. Garrison documents the colors of each of these scenarios and organizes them into a fluid diagram. Each abstract painting is based on categorizing our consumerist compulsions via malls, mega-stores, and catalogues – the essential touch-stones of capitalist America. Garrison laboriously categorizes, dates, and names each element of his paintings, creating a matrix of data through color, plotting, and writing. In his Product Packaging series, Garrison actually cuts shapes out of the cardboard packages his family has bought, like cereal boxes, and organizes the hexagonal bits to form a kind of topology of domestic consumption.
Despite the overall categorical rigidity, it is not always immediately clear how he has organized the colors: are the hues from a Staples “Back to School Savings” catalogue ordered by tonal variation, as if they were fragments of a Josef Albers painting? Or is he following his own specific, albeit cryptic, rules to fill in each section of the diagram? Some of the paintings also include blank spaces; does the void represent the white in a catalogue or simply a possible space for a color not seen in the magazines? There is a very Zen quality to the work: Garrison employs a simplicity of form, a quietness of mind, and a keen understanding of the miscellany that surrounds him every day.

Garrison’s abstractions mirror the seduction of advertising, with vibrant colors that almost appear to blast outward from the page. And many of the colors, appropriated from advertisements, become eerily similar when seen together as a whole. Garrison reminds us of the aesthetic power of advertising that runs rampant in our day-to-day lives, occupies our homes, and illustrates our seasonal needs and desires. The ultimate impact is a conceptual diagram of the themes that are completely prevalent in American lives, although we may not stop to analyze them, as Garrison so aptly does.


  1. I thank Jessica for reviewing Richard Garrison’s show. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed his work in particular from the others we saw in Bushwick that day. I liked how the color wheels try to make sense of the barrage of the print advertisements and inserts that fall out of the delivered paper. Even though there was no definable reasoning for his color choices in some pieces, the recurring exacting labeling of the products/spaces felt ample. The color variations and ordered rhythmic spaces gave an order and a tranquility of unwanted chaotic consumerism.

  2. In addition to being very articulate I find your writing poetic and it helps me having a better understanding of the show. Indeed, entering the gallery was disconcerting for me, as I didn’t really get what were those colored wheels. And even though I understood the process better after reading the press release, I still saw Garrison’s works as very analytical and cold, and didn’t get the more philosophical aspect of the work. I think you clearly expressed how the artist positions himself towards the consumer world we live in, but how do you think this impact us? How much of it directly concerns/involves the viewer of Garrison work?