The inspiration behind ‘Deconstructing Identities’: The exhibition was created while self-isolating and navigating the ups and downs of the pandemic. This surreal setting gave birth to pieces inspired by self-reflection and specifically the role of self-inflicted appearances. People’s constructed nature fighting with their instinctive core and trying to visually translate a complete persona. This collection also introduces more contextual elements to my work. Featured are little pieces of nostalgia riding the line between kitsch and whimsy contrasting with the expression of the characters sometimes melancholic or naive.
In recent years we have lost one of our greatest friends and allies, along with one of our rising stars, to this ever-growing epidemic. Depression and suicide are very widespread in the creative community and we want to help raise awareness and offer support for those suffering. If it helps guide just one person out of the darkness, it was more than worth it to mount this collection of works.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. If someone you know needs your support, please don’t hesitate to drop them a call, invite them to a Zoom group, swing by if you can… just let them know they are loved and needed.
10% of sales will be donated to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The Lancaster Museum of Art and History, in collaboration with Thinkspace Projects, is pleased to present The New Vanguard III, a dynamic group exhibition of works by international artists working in the New Contemporary art movement.
Thinkspace is proud to present new work by Toronto-based artist Alex Garant for her latest exhibition ‘Deconstructing Identities’ as a part of ‘The New Vanguard III’ showing at The Lancaster Museum of Art.
Garant is known for her hyper-realistic rendering of op art portraits where her subjects’ faces and eyes seem to skip their registers through image redoubling and superimposition. Not unlike the fugitive flicker of a screen or the spectral layering of multiple film exposures.
In anticipation of her first museum exhibition, our interview with Alex Garant discusses what this show means to her, how she pushes through moments of overwhelm, and her creative rituals.
SH: How long have you been showing your work in galleries and various exhibitions? Do you remember the first time you showed your work to the public? What was the exhibition?
AG: When I was 7 years old, my parents enrolled me in an oil painting class at the local community center, and at the end of the program, we got to show our work at an art show for the neighborhood. I was so so proud and even sold my painting to strangers, which to me was such a strange concept. Then in my late teens, I had a few amateur showings with Art School/ College.
After that I was working a lot, marketing jobs, travel jobs, all kind of stuff and I lost my creative focus. In 2012 I suffered from a heart attack, it really changed everything and got me to focus on my true passion again.
My first exhibit in a professional gallery happened in 2013 at a local gallery in Toronto.
SH: When painting, what are you listening to in the background?
AG: Honestly, once I get deep into the creation zone, I mostly block out all external noises or distractions. I get so focused that everything else is white noise. That said, I often play some mid-century retro jams and blues to get me in a happy place.
SH: What was the inspiration behind the body of work that you will be showing for New Vanguard III?
AG: “ Deconstructing Identities” was created while self-isolating and navigating the ups and downs of the pandemic. This surreal setting gave birth to pieces inspired by self reflection and specifically the role of self-inflicted appearances. People’s constructed nature fighting with their instinctive core and trying to visually translate a complete persona. This collection also introduces more contextual elements to my work. Featured are little pieces of nostalgia riding the line between kitsch and whimsy contrasting with the expression of the characters sometimes melancholic or naive.
SH:When viewing other artists’ work, what elements get you really excited or inspire you?
AG: I always get excited to see works my own imagination could never come up with. Sometimes, it amazes me to see the simplest color combination and I start thinking: wow, how can they make those 3 colors work so well together. I am truly an art fan and I am always overwhelmed by technique and imagination. I’m fascinated by any creative minds different than my own.
SH:Does having an exhibition at a museum feel different than showing work at a gallery?
AG: First, I feel very honored and humbled to be part of this amazing Art statement that is The New Vanguard III. When it comes to process, I do think a museum exhibit was a bit more pressure, I am absolutely one of those artists who try to push themselves a lot and is never satisfied with anything coming out of the studio. Every piece is always a learning experience, therefore each painting is a puzzle piece of my creative journey. So I would say, there is a different feel to it, but it’s mostly self-inflicted… Oh, and my mother is extra proud.
SH:Every person experiences that moment, when they are in the middle or even at the start of something, where it feels overwhelming or isn’t going as planned – how do you personally push through those difficult moments?
AG: For me usually, during the creation of a painting I go through several phases: confidence, excitement, struggle, hate, hate, hate, overwhelming desperation, satisfaction, 2 minutes of pride and then happiness fading into an almost disappointment, until I start a new piece and the cycle starts again. It’s a roller coaster, but at the end of the day, once you start seeing art as your daily work, you understand that this exact process is part of the job description. You will create 100 “okay” pieces for 1 piece you might end up being fully satisfied with. Eventually, you accept this reality and also understand it is what the entire experience is. The ups and downs are part of the Art. It becomes an integral fragment of how you move your brushes, which colors you chose, how much detail you add. And if a final piece is so wrong to my eye, I usually put it aside and start another one. The key is to keep creating.
SH:If you could show your work beside any artist, in the entire history of art, who would you want to share wall space with?
AG: That is a hard question, mainly because I would have to arrogance to think I deserve to be shown next to the artists I admire the most. But one of my biggest inspirations is the Pope Series by Francis Bacon which I saw for the first time when I was a child, and those images have been inspiring to me ever since.
SH:What piece challenged you most in this body of work and why?
AG:U wish was the most challenging because it was my first full body piece and I truly put all my energy into rendering every section to the absolute best of my abilities. And I am now very excited to work on bigger full-body pieces in the future.
SH: Do you have any pre-studio rituals that get the creative juices flowing?
AG: I will answer candidly: it is silly but this is how I get started, I gesso my canvas, and while it dries in the sun, I drink a Redbull, set up my palette ( always the same way) & pre-mix a few skin tones ( always the same method). I feel like a clear set-up routine really gets me started properly until the chaos of creation overwhelms me.
SH:We declare The New Vanguard III a milestone in your artistic journey, what are three other milestones that mark your path and life as an artist?
AG: I feel like every painting could be a milestone, every art show, every time someone sends me a DM to support me, every time I sell a print, all those moments are so so so important to me. I cherish and truly, deeply appreciate every single step of this amazing journey I am on.
From the outside, objective observers would most likely consider my biggest markers to be: Graduating from Art School over 20 years ago, my heart attack & realizing I NEEDED to be an artist, my first solo exhibit & my first museum exhibit.
THE NEW VANGUARD III Curated by Thinkspace Projects
September 12 through December 27, 2020
Lancaster Museum of Art and History 665 W. Lancaster Blvd. Lancaster, California 93534 www.LancasterMOAH.org
Featuring Solo Exhibitions From: KEVIN PETERSON “Embers” KAYLA MAHAFFEY “Adrift” ALEX GARANT “Deconstructing Identities” KATHY AGER “Fool’s Gold”
THE NEW VANGUARD III Curated by Thinkspace Projects
September 12 through December 27, 2020
Lancaster Museum of Art and History 665 W. Lancaster Blvd. Lancaster, California 93534 www.LancasterMOAH.org
Featuring Solo Exhibitions From: Kevin Peterson – ‘Embers’ Kayla Mahaffey – ‘Adrift’ Alex Garant – ‘Deconstructing Identities’ Kathy Ager – ‘Fool’s Gold’
(Lancaster, CA) – The Lancaster Museum of Art and History, in collaboration with Los Angeles’ Thinkspace Projects, is pleased to present The New Vanguard III, a dynamic group exhibition of works by international artists working in the New Contemporary art movement. The highly anticipated follow up to 2018’s successful second iteration of The New Vanguard, on view in tandem with this year’s POW WOW! Antelope Valley will feature special solo projects by artists Kevin Peterson, Kayla Mahaffey, Kathy Ager and Alex Garant.
The New Vanguard III, in keeping with the first two installments, will present a diverse and expansive group of curated new works. In addition to the solo exhibitions on view from Mahaffey, Peterson, Ager and Garant, we will also be presenting our ’Small Victories’ group show focusing on suicide prevention and mental health. We’ve lost one of our greatest allies and friends and one of our rising stars to this ever-growing epidemic in recent years. Sadly this issue is very widespread in the creative community and we want to help raise awareness and funds. If it helps guide just one person out of the darkness, it was more than worth it to mount this collection of works.
This special showcase will include new pieces by ABCNT, Adam Caldwell, Ador, AKACORLEONE, Allison Sommers, Angel Once, Anthony Hurd, Anthony Solano, Atomik, Brad Woodfin, Brian Mashburn, Bryan Valenzuela, Carl Cashman, Charlie Edmiston, Chloe Becky, Clare Toms, David Rice, Derek Gores, Dovie Golden, Dragon76, Drew Young, Edith Lebeau, Eduardo F. Angel, Erik Mark Sandberg, Frank Gonzales, Ghost Beard, Goopmassta, Hanna Lee Joshi, Hilda Palafox, Hola Lou, Huntz Liu, Imon Boy, Jaime Molina, Jeff Ejan, Jimmer Willmott, Kaplan Bunce, Kate Wadsworth, Kelly Vivanco, Ken Flewellyn, Kim Sielbeck, KOZ DOS, Lauren Hana Chai, Lauren YS, Linsey Levendall, Mando Marie, Manuel Zamudio, Mari Inukai, Max Sansing, McKenzie Fisk, Meggs, Molly Gruninger, Mwanel Pierre-Louis, Nicola Caredda, Patch Whisky, Ricky Watts, Roos van der Vliet, Sergio Garcia, Shar Tuiasoa, Stephanie Buer, Tati Holt, Telmo Miel, TMRWLND, Waylon Horner, and Wiley Wallace
A movement unified as much by its diversity as its similitude, ‘New Contemporary’ has come to denote an important heterogeneity of styles, media, contexts, and activations over the course of its establishment since the 90s. Unified in its fledgling beginnings by a founding countercultural impulse searching for its own nomenclature, the New Contemporary movement’s shifting and inclusive designations have offered alternative narratives over the years to those popularized by the dominant art establishment and its conceptual predilections.
Though stylistically disparate, the work belonging to this rapidly expansive movement reveals a desire to reference the popular, social, and subcultural domains of contemporary experience, grounding, rather than rarifying, imagery in the familiar. Looking to the urban landscape and the kaleidoscopic shift of individual identities within it, these artists use the figurative and narrative to anchor their work in the accessible and aesthetically relatable. A fundamentally democratic stance governs the ambitions of this new guard, ever in search of novel ways to expand rather than to contract.
Kayla Mahaffey – Adrift
Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Kayla Mahaffey (also known as KaylaMay) is quickly becoming one of the city’s most sought-after artists with her unique blend of flat, cartoon elements with brilliant photo-realism.
Mahaffey’s work gives voice to the unheard stories of contemporary youth and, as explained by the artist, “serves as a guide to bring hope back into our daily lives by cherishing each moment not in the mindset of an adult, but with the fresh eyes and imagination of a child.”
Being born and raised on the South side of Chicago, IL., only ignited Kayla’s love for all things art. The artist elaborates, “seeing the struggle and the support from the community made my work evolve to a concept that is personal to me. I continue to further my technique, and creativity in my field in order to paint a beautiful picture of a new world for those around me. Living in our society can be tough and most of the time we have to make the best of it. A wild imagination can take you so far, but at the end of the day we need to realize and observe the world around us. And the world around us is where I find my inspiration to paint. Colorful paintings that contain hints of whimsy and realism that tell a story of inner thoughts and personal issues that sometimes go unheard.”
Alex Garant – Deconstructing Identities
Toronto-based, Canadian, Québéquois artist Alex Garant is a painter known for her hyper-realistically rendered Op art portraits in which the faces and eyes of her subjects seem to skip their registers through image redoubling and superimposition, Garant is in search of the frenetic internal life of the sitter.
Not unlike the fugitive flicker of a screen or the spectral layering of multiple film exposures, her portraits reveal an unsettling multiplicity, shifting beneath the subject’s surface. Garant creates faces that challenge the optics of identity and the reductive way in which it is perceived, with a visual gimmick that quite literally dislodges and displaces its coherence to produce skittering psychological images of fracture and ricochet.
Garant has long been fascinated by the interaction of patterns and symmetry, and the resulting optics of their graphic repetition and layering. Her portraits begin with a series of superimposed drawings based on her sitters, actual individuals, and muses from her life, and pushes the familiar confines of portraiture to a newly strange and re-sensitized place of sensory confusion. Her subjects and their energy seem to erupt from within, testing the tensile seams of the skin, the body, as always, an insufficient vessel for the incongruous experience within.
The artist’s labor-intensive oil paintings are meticulously executed, often incorporating patterning or other graphic elements and motifs to produce reverberating visual effects. Her color palette ranges from the subtlety of realistic flesh tones to hyper-colored gradients, saturated pastels, and translucent gem-like washes of color. Her stylizations of these vertiginous portraits thrive in surreal kitsch to interrupt the apprehension of the subject, activating a process of invested viewing, that is of trying to “see” the person amidst the trappings of hallucinatory visual interference. The compelling and somewhat unsuccessful process of attempting to stabilize the image produces a fundamental feeling of perceptual instability, one that intensifies our stolen communion with an evasive subject.
Kathy Ager – Fool’s Gold
Kathy Ager creates detailed, still lifes that feel simultaneously Baroque and acerbically modern. Inspired by the 17th-Century Golden Age of Dutch and Spanish painting, her imagery uses historical visual rhetoric to deliver intensely personal and emotively charged themes. A professional graphic designer-turned painter, this is Ager’s first complete body of work to date and will include ten new paintings.
Ager begins her process with language – an idea or expression often gleaned from music, a book, or some other source that resonates personally. She then endeavors to resolve the concept visually through objects and composition, assembling a patchwork of references – some collective and shared from pop culture, others steeped in the idiosyncrasies of the personal. Both poetic and revelatory, Ager’s works feel charged with the simultaneous misery and beauty of contemporary appropriation – and express the current world through the formal repositories of the past to create anachronistic moments of resonance and delivery. Ever present amidst moments of undeniably expressed disappointment and disillusionment are redemptive linings, beautifully poignant discoveries, and playful, irreverent mirth.
The seductive darkness with which Ager reveals universal human longings is both disarming and consuming. Broken hearts are offered up as organs in a bowl, skeletal memento mori abound, and dating feels about as abject in the modern world as butchery; books are stacked with suggestive spines, and flowers wither while fruit threatens to decay. The abattoir is never far from the transcendent ambitions of classical statuary in Ager’s world, while beauty is embroiled in the vulnerability of intimacy and self-exposure.
Kevin Peterson – Embers
Kevin Peterson, a gifted hyperrealist painter, creates a fictional world in which innocence and collapse are brought into difficult proximity. His arresting images combine portraits of children accompanied by kindly sentient beasts in a state of kindred displacement. Alone, though together, in strangely desolate, richly graffitied urban scenes, these babes and their benevolent conspirators appear interchangeably as beacons of hope and symbols of dispossession.
Peterson’s works harness a dystopian social hyperrealism through painstaking attention to every possible fraction and detail of the mundane in their execution – every contour is excised, every surface meticulously rendered. The weird crystal clarity of the hyperreal in the depiction of these desolate underpasses and structural ruins provides a starkly strange backdrop for elements of fairytale, like the fantastic alliances proposed between children and animals, and the magical narratives these allegiances imply. A psychologically poignant, if not ambiguous, feeling of transformation and hope lingers in these impossibly arresting scenes of solitary kids. The resilience they suggest is haunting, while the unsettling verity with which these vulnerable fictions are cast strike something in our shared fear of literal and figurative exposure.
Always in search of poetic tension and compelling contrasts, Peterson alloys unlikely parts: beginnings and ends collide, the young appear in worn and weathered worlds, innocence is forced into experience, and the wild infringes upon the ‘civilizing’ city limits. In Wild, Peterson explores themes of protection and marginalization, staging wild animals, ironically, in the humanizing and civilizing charge of caregivers. Though a recurring suggestion in previous works, the role of the animal in a nearly shamanistic role as protector and watcher appears more overtly in the new. Small children are attended by wild bears, watchful raccoons, gentle fawns, mythic looking ravens, owls, and jungle cats, among others, as they hold a living and protective vigil against the crumbling architectures around them; their guardianship staged like a protective bulwark.
Peterson’s hyperreal paintings are at times uncomfortably close in the pathos of their offerings; they remind us, too, of something uneasily present in us all, a childhood that haunts the posturing of all of our adulthoods. Ultimately, Peterson’s works offer beautifully jarring reminders of the need for redemptive outcomes in a disappointed time.