Solo Exhibition | Jackson, WY
Altamira Fine Art Jackson is pleased to present a solo exhibition for Robert Townsend, August 17-28, 2021.
Please join us for a special ticketed event Tuesday August 17 at the new Cloudveil Hotel on Center Street. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets. Seating is limited.
The artist will also be in the gallery for the August ArtWalk, Thursday evening August 19, 5:30-7:30pm.
Joie de Vivre
What does it mean to be an image? And in turn, what does it mean to see an image? Can we trust what we see? Or is what we see a mashup of components, both actual and perceived, concrete and constructed? These are some of the questions that Robert Townsend asks but does not necessarily answer by presenting a new painting at Altamira Fine Art. The scene is one he has painted before: A dame dressed to the nines, replete with coif and ruby pumps, seated on a plastic pool lounger beneath a midcentury motel sign. His first iteration hewed close to the Kodachrome original. This time, he picked apart the picture, manifesting a concept he’s mulled for years: the perceptual play between how the eye perceives color—the subjectivity of visual perception—versus the technical components of an image—how every image, according to the printing process, is an amalgam of four colors—cyan, magenta, yellow and key, a classification known as CYMK.
As an artist, Townsend has trained his eye to see images according to the CMYK model, an education that began with his first paycheck job as a teenager in a 45-minute photo lab (a job that paralleled his early work as a muralist). Every morning, he would turn on the machines and do a series of CMYK test prints; he’d watch with fascination as the machine spit out streaks of color, checking ink levels. Through printing photos, he learned to see the explosion of colored dots that ultimately coalesce into a whole that can read as, for instance, a woman underneath a neon sign. Now, decades on, Townsend evoked such test prints by cropping the dame image to its core—the woman’s figure with only snippets of setting—and then spliced that into its CMYK segments. Now, she sits in subtractive bands, abstracted by vibrant tones. The resulting painting feels minimalist with much of the canvas consumed by negative space.
This act of abstraction draws conceptual inspiration from Barnett Newman’s zip paintings, Chuck Close’s gridded self-portraits, and Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing; the elements Townsend chooses not to paint—the cropped-out setting, the disintegrated color bands—speak as loudly as the distillation of details he does include. The viewer knows the white space should include the full image, and yet, the eye must only consider what’s present, a dialectic that invites the imagination to step in and stand in. “Once they see the strips, their natural inclination is to think, ‘What would this picture look like in full? What about this photo prompted negating?’” Townsend posits. Such questions lead to the key dynamic of abstract art: “What does it mean for something to be abstract in painting? You’ve got realism and then there are a thousand ways for something to be abstract.”
The CMYK painting signals the official start of a personal—potentially limitless—exploration of abstraction for Townsend, though several prior paintings seeded this adventure, including a recent unconventional composition starring Roy solo on a beach. By returning to a known entity, he finds himself deepening his relationship with the image, considering more closely her face, specifically where to set a color line without compromising her charisma. “How do we look at a face when it is broken down?” Ever challenging himself, Townsend expects this inquisitive loop to continue through future investigative acts, which may or may not include returning again to this scene or others from his oeuvre, even perhaps a Helen painting. “It’s like anything in life. Is it more interesting to know someone for five minutes or years? It’s like having a fantastic conversation with somebody: the more layers you know, the more interesting they become.”
Pre-sales available. Contact the gallery for more details, (307) 739-4700, firstname.lastname@example.org.