[“Live Forever (Be Here Now)” (2009), synthetic polymer on canvas. “Fell In Love With a Girl” (2009), synthetic polymer on canvas. “I Fought the Law” (2009), synthetic polymer on canvas.]
Taking music as a starting point in his third solo exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery, British-born artist Tim Bavington translates chords, notes, guitar necks, and solos into visual systems by approximating their equivalents in color and spraying them with synthetic polymer onto canvas. Running through October 10, Up in Suze’s Room presents a number of large-scale paintings in vibrant hues of red, fuchsia, orange, green, and electric and pale blue, all of which pulsate like sounds on these canvas surfaces.
While including vertically striped paintings typical of Bavington’s oeuvre, Up in Suze’s Room also features a new style of work displaying a grid of larger bands of color as found in “All I Want to Do Is Rock (Fretboard).” The show also includes “Cold Fire” and “Up in Suze’s Room,” both exhibiting a freewheeling looseness in which colors bleed into one another or fade in and out—creating open spaces of white light within these compositions. Vertical lines come to the fore, whether in standalone or mixing with diagonals and horizontal bands. “Cold Fire” is inspired by a single on the 1993 album Counterparts by Canadian prog-rock band Rush. Counterparts was Rush’s highest charting album in the U.S.—peaking at #2. Emerging around the same time as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, The Jam more precisely fit the mold of “New Wave” bands that arrived later. At the same time, The Clash championed The Jam—taking them along as a support act during the 1977 White Riot tour. Starting with The Jam, singer, lyricist, and guitarist Paul Weller was a leader in the Mod revival of the 1970s. That Weller is an inspiration to Bavington’s work is obvious in “Up in Suze’s Room.”
Hazy, Rothko-like compositions inspired by album covers generate heat while replacing lines altogether. These “album covers” serve only as initial inspiration for subsequent works that take on new life. Rather than creating simple representations of source material, Bavington unleashes colors intuitively in this retinue—creating painting that offer harmonious visual impressions. One of these “album covers,” “I Fought the Law” is a 1976-77 punk rock cover by The Clash of a 1965 Top 10 hit by the Bobby Fuller Four. Mysteriously, Bobby Fuller was found dead in a parked car as the song shot up the charts. While ruled a suicide by police, nearly all close to Fuller believe he was murdered. Meanwhile, the Dead Kennedys wrote a version lamenting the lenient 1979 verdict handed Dan White in his cold-blooded murder of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. Lyrics were altered from “I fought the law and the law won” to “I fought the law and I won”—reflecting Dan White’s perspective in putting one over on the jury in his “Twinkie defense.”
Dashed aspirations and expectations come to the fore in Bavington’s work “Live Forever (Be Here Now),” which captures the anticipation of fans to the third studio album by the English band Oasis. Released in 1997, the hype and build-up descended into revulsion of the work on the basis of it being “overindulgent” and a “disaster”—criticisms seen as too strong or off the mark in the light of 2009.
Along with such musical references as Paul Weller, David Bowie, REM, and Oasis, Bavington’s influences include the West’s desert landscape, neon signage, and color field and optical paintings from the 1960s and 1970s. Further, on a more conceptual level, Bavington’s works refer to Sir Isaac Newton’s studies on relationships between sound and color—which continued through the paintings of Kandinsky (1866-1944). An accomplished musician, Kandinsky opined that color is the keyboard, eyes are the harmonies, and the soul is the piano with many strings. He used color in a theoretical way, linking tone with timbre, hue with pitch, and saturation with the volume of sound. Bavington also deals with contemporary neurological studies of synesthesia—the concept of joined perception or the fusing of separate senses.
Bavington balances a systematic approach with intuitive paint handling, resulting in canvases that dazzle the eye while bridging gaps between dueling concepts of real vs. synthetic, digital vs. analog, and straight symbol vs. coded metaphor. The artist’s work has been shown at the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo), Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), Portland Museum of Art, South Florida Museum of Contemporary Art, DiverseWorks Artspace (Houston).
Up in Suze’s Room
Through October 10, 2009
@ Jack Shainman Gallery
513 West 20th Street, NYC 10011