Mikey Kelly and Jen Pack
SLATE contemporary | 473 25th Street, Oakland, CA
January 9 - March 27, 2021 | Hours: By appointment - book online or email firstname.lastname@example.org
And the Unseen Colors Erupt features paintings by Mikey Kelly and textile sculptures by Jen Pack. While working in different mediums, both artists pursue the optical and emotional impact of color and line to create work that is on the one hand bright and bold and on the other, full of both detail and minimalist restraint.
Jen Pack constructs three-dimensional forms from two-dimensional sheets of fabric which are wrapped around complex sculptural shapes built of wood. The dynamic relationship between the heavy wooden structures that hang on the wall and the delicate fibers on the surface creates a wonderful dialogue, toggling between solid substance and negative space, tension and release, hard-angles and free-flow. The artist enjoys how this kind of play balances masculine and feminine approaches by challenging not only the notion of sewing as “feminine craft” but also the already ambiguous distinction between fine art and craft.
In Mikey Kelly’s paintings, space is more of an illusion. Made with hundreds or thousands of overlapping lines set at radiating and diagonal angles, these works can appear almost machine-made at first glance, and that assumption holds truth. Kelly has developed a system using poly-alphabetic ciphers and numeric algorithmic systems that allow language-based input to be translated into a directional code that dictates the angle and color of each layer of lines that make up a painting. When it comes time to actually execute the work, the artist himself is somewhat automated, run by the decisions he has already made and by the system of directions he has created. And yet, nature and humanity persist in the irregularity of lines made by a tool that is hand-held, in the moments where his paint pens or markers catch the nub of a coarsely-woven canvas, and in the emotional impact of the colors combined.
While each artist’s work stands on its own, the presentation of their work side by side highlights common themes. Both love bright spectral hues, while being equally comfortable taking pause in pieces that are largely black and white – proving that their materials and shapes hold up even without the delightful and sensational distraction of color. Both artists’ work has a strong graphic impact at a distance, but reveals hours of labor and mesmerizing detail when viewed intimately at close range. Both follow systematic modes of working, where repetition of action accumulates to generate pattern and form. Textile and its textures are foundational to both bodies of work as well. Indeed, this sense of experimentation is perhaps what is most exciting about these artists’ work. While both have a strong sense of discipline and focus, having moved past the painterly tropes of pictorialism and expressionism, and having stepped across the borders that separate fine art from craft and painting from sculpture; it seems that the possibilities are now endless.