Solo Exhibition | Jackson, WY
Altamira Fine Art Jackson is pleased to present a new solo exhibition for Denver artist Duke Beardsley.
Please join us for the Artist Reception during the ArtWalk, Thursday, July 15 from 5:30-7:30pm.
In Without Knocking: Wanton Deliberations From The Lost Trail to Nowhere
Unraveling. Uncoiling. States of play that could scare off some. But not Duke Beardsley. When characterizing his new canvases, his choice of entropic descriptors led him to the metaphor of a lariat, the essential tool of the cowboys he paints. Naturally a rope coils, abiding by its wound-up form. But with movement a lariat kinks, and the cowboy must continually tend to it—to ensure it sits neatly in his hand, ready to lasso at a moment’s notice. Such is the work of the artist. After years of study and practice, the painter comes to a point where he must let his skills fly free. As his mentor Ray Turner once counseled: Take all your formal training and go out and find what you don’t know. “That’s always inspired me,” Beardsley says.
For the artist—as for so many of us—the pandemic uncovered new realms of unknowing. Open to silver-lining lessons, he recognizes that recent epiphanies have initiated the joyful unraveling of his cowboy paintings. He compares this moment to being inside a snow globe after a vigorous shake—flecks in flux, orientation upended. Amidst such a particulate cloud, he’s finding new forms of expression. Abstract textures—suggestive of unresolved contexts and ongoing historical reckonings—ground his new works. “I’m allowing for an intentional abstraction of the background,” he says. “I’m not an abstract painter but I’m letting the uncertainty of what is going on be OK.” Also in the mix are visible transparencies and open-ended juxtapositions. Not opposed but in harmony: looseness and control; color and monochrome, light and dark.
When a new painting resisted all direction from the artist, his studio assistant suggested stepping back. Let it be what it wants to be; let go of the things you can’t control. “Where is the gripping going to get you? You can still have your hands on the reigns and not really be in charge,” the artist reflects. “I find it artistically liberating.”
Tactile and free flowing, this new mode feels akin to sketching to Beardsley. “It’s as close and intimate as working in a sketchbook,” he says. “You can’t hide your mistakes. You have to deal with them—fix them or embrace them.”
By freeing himself alongside his subjects, Beardsley is now drawing inspiration from sources far afield of the Western iconography in which his oeuvre most often resides, turning instead in this moment, to European figurative painters and NFT trailblazers. “I feel as though I’m in the middle of this cool transition through and away from and, in some respects, back to Western imagery.”
Beyond the formal and physical experimentation, he’s also taking on the conceptual turmoil surrounding his subject—the socio-cultural reconsideration of the cowboy as a historic hero. “I accept the current questioning of the cowboy icon,” he says. “In my paintings, I’m asking it to clarify itself and be something bigger.”
An aggrandizement registered both symbolically and literally, his current canvases stretch 84 by 54 inches. “I love the physical impact of big paintings,” he says. “When you have so much space to cover, you can’t be precious, only essential. You can’t hide much on a big canvas.”
“These paintings seem kind of confrontational because they are coming straight toward the viewer,” he says. “They are demanding to be allowed to do what they want.”
Beardsley models the curiosity and the consciousness necessary to ride into a more sentient sunset. “This is a magic time,” he says. “Possibilities can come from upheaval. There has to be movement amid the precarity.”
Presales available. Contact the gallery for deatils (307) 739-4700, firstname.lastname@example.org.