To Be Continued: The Power of Suggested Story in the Art of Joshua Chambers, Taffie Garsee, and Rachel Stuart-Haas opened this week. On Thursday Robert Pincus presented his review of the exhibition. I have included the section that is directly concerned with my work in the show. I will post a full version of the review at a later date.
“The way that Chambers uses text reveals a kinship with Conceptual art. But his sensibility, he points out, is theatrical. His paintings feel as if you have caught a drama in freeze frame and along with the “performers” is a line of text – a few words, a sentence – that expand or comment on its action and/or its possible meaning.
His style is precise, realistic. The words float in space that is usually uniform in color. Figures, creatures and objects recur: an ape in a life jacket; a diver in elaborate helmet and tennis shoes; a female figure (alternately woman or girl); a goldfish (in a bowl and outside it); a crane; balloons in rows, bunches and singly; a cinderblock; a rope. The way that props matter as much as a person, animal or bird reveals an affinity with Samuel Beckett’s notion of theatre.
Chambers’ universe isn’t as stark as Beckett’s; hardly any artist’s is that austere. He often employs a palette that sweetens the effect of the unsettling incident within them.
The predicament in which people and other creatures find themselves, in Chambers’ pictures, is often just as absurd. And as in absurdist plays, the action in his art can amuse, disturb or both at once. Consider Chambers’ ape, positioned on a short ladder and looking up toward a crane and finch that perch on a tree suspended high above him. The scene is mysterious, to be sure. Its text then adds a wryly metaphysical dimension to the effect of the image. their nature was unknown to him and he accordingly referred to them as the latter (2014).
In fact, Chambers’ paintings all depicted (human or otherwise) are players in a drama of the unknowable. In nice is better than good (2014) – Chambers uses lowercase to make his text unassuming – we are implicitly asked to decide what is nice and what is good. The diver is suspended by rope that is connected to a cinderblock. Perhaps the nice dimension of the action is the depiction of weight and counterweight in the image. But of course it wouldn’t be terribly nice to be in the position that the suspended diver finds himself. He (or is it she?) would probably think it better for someone to let him down. So why, then, is nice better than good? Each can ponder that question and come up with his or her own conclusion.
The painting isn’t so much about an answer as a predicament: The problem of existence without ready answers. Being able to convey a notion that complex with concision and wit, an image and text, is what makes Chambers’ art quietly magnetic.”
excerpt is published with permission from the author, Robert Pincus