Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery 96 Bedford Stamford, CT 06901
Tuesday, Nov 21, 2018
JAMES GORTNER’S FIRST SOLO EXHIBITION AT FERNANDO LUIS ALVAREZ GALLERY
STAMFORD, CT — Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery is proud to present the first Connecticut solo exhibition of NY artist James Gortner, GAMES, opening Saturday, November 21st from 6 to 9 pm.
GAMES is a curated survey of a series that Gortner has been working and reworking like puzzles for the past 7 years. The artist’s process involves assembling and fitting together found paintings in mosaic patterns as a starting point – in very much the same way that other artists select or construct a blank canvas. After the plane has been created, Gortner then paints over the assemblage, allowing for new content to develop while what already exists peeks through. At times, Gortner will invite other artists – both friends and colleagues – to collaborate or act in the work in some way. Artists whose hands have helped in the completion of the works in GAMES include Kara Walker, Fia Backström, Dana Schutz, Jon Kessler, Gregory Amenoff, Matt Mullican, and Virginia Martinson. Small touches by these high level established artists showcased next to unknown and anonymous artists’ handiwork inside of his own work help Gortner point out the juxtaposition of high and low art, as well as notions of artistic value.
This process – by taking many other’s artworks, redesigning compositions, organizing combinational contextual changes, and creating new work over it – offers a strong commentary on the state of contemporary art, where so much material and the subject is appropriated and renegotiated. Ironically, what Gortner works to create in totality, actually presents one of the more complicated objects of pure self-expression in the art world today. Gortner’s pieces become meta-sculptures: where direct artist participation, a copious amount of painting by his own hand, and the transformation of many others’ artworks join hand-in-hand to question the differentiation between originality and authenticity.
As signified in the title of the exhibition, GAMES is a play on ideas of authorship, artistic production, aesthetics, collaboration, autonomy, and love.
Perhaps more striking than these conceptual elements, however, are the figurative forms on each canvas. The women Gortner paints are inspired by the high-fashion photography stills captured by his wife, photographer Carolina Palmgren. Their penetrating eyes, sculpted cheekbones, and waif-like bodies form otherworldly figures that compel the viewer to step closer to the work. When viewed collectively, the works demonstrate a specific collection of Tarot Cards – the same cards that were produced during a reading in 2007 to the artist by his future wife and mother of his children. In this, Gortner constructs a relational space of life-meaning around each painting; the viewer is unaware of the intimacy of the portrait and the layers of connection it holds for its creator. For Gortner, the project comprised the future they delved into together, as well as a kind of melding of gazes and a greater love story.
Each work in the collection is also informed, together or in part, by art historical movements of the past and present. Classical realism, cubism, abstract expressionism, and surrealism often exist concurrently on a canvas. Obvious and not-so-obvious influences such as Duchamp’s “ready-made,” Rauschenberg’s “art as life,” and Joseph Beuys’ “social sculpture” coalesce as conceptual elements to the visceral textures of the work. There is also a heavy influence of Gortner’s mentor from Columbia University, RirkritTiravanija, and his concept of “relational aesthetics.” Together, this lattice-work of concept and form adds a deeper level of symbolism to the work.
Gortner has been featured at Lyons Wier Gallery (New York) and Pool Gallery (Berlin) and belongs to the private collection of President Jiang Zemin of China, actress Reese Witherspoon, the Wooster St Collective, and ESKFF, among others. Gortner has lectured at Columbia University and is the founder of Seeker, a mentorship, training, and residency program for artists. He lives and works in New York City, with a studio at MANA Contemporary. He earned his MFA from Columbia University in 2010, and his BFA from Hawaii Pacific University.