Safe Gallery is pleased to present new paintings by Daniel Herr. To quote Herr directly, “Two New York painters I think about a lot - George Inness and Basquiat, both quintessentially American. One was part of an early American art movement and worked in a way that described the physical beauty of the landscape, like an explorer. The other was part of a more recent movement and painted the cultural reality, the chaotic urban landscape of ugliness. I’m interested in a way to paint that would combine those two”. It is this same earnestness that makes Herr’s surfaces immediately alluring. With true colors at play, the paintings are primal, straightforward, and yet per mutate endlessly before the eyes. Influenced by his life in New York City, his upbringing in California, and his travels to China and Spain; landscape is the harmonious backbone of this work. One painting in particular, Tri-Colored Earth, depicts a rural landscape outside Barcelona. The painting is based on the description a fellow traveler gave him when he tried to visit a local monastery and was told what trail to take based on the color of the dirt. The psyche of this experience is laid out on the canvas for all to see: emerald trees off in the horizon, a sky hanging overhead with a stark white brick-shaped cloud bursting in front of a creeping night sky, and consuming most of the foreground is a milky tan earth scattered with scratchy blades of green grass. Another instance of the push and pull between abstraction and landscape is Farm Team; a combination of sparse and jumbled moments of paint used to portray a scene from a classic American football game. Amongst the prismatic paint patches on canvas, the viewer’s attention is brought to a football player thrown to the ground. The colorful realm both idealizes the panorama of the football field while simultaneously questioning the absurdity of the event. Good Neighbor is a big expansive abstract work about a swimming pool and a guy falling out of a chair while breaking it. The comedy and hallucination of Herr’s world is stirred together in a multitude of marks from stipples, slathers, and scrawls in dexterous proportions. Daniel Herr’s body of work transcends notions of figurative space to help comprehend the collective complex reality that fills it, culminating in a ravishing arena of chroma for the eye to explore.
Another link to the inspiration of early American landscape painting comes via the Hudson Valley where most of Guy Walker’s new work is produced. Taking energy from the rich foundation of earth surrounding Walker’s country studio, his forms appear as if they organically sprouted from the ground on which they are displayed. Akin to a tulip breaking through the ground after the first thaw of spring, these works delight the viewer with their contrapposto stance. The sculptures are plaster casts formed inside the fluid billows of large plastic bags tied in diverse variations. These resulting plaster totems have luminous washy patterns transferred onto the smooth surfaces during the casting process. The evolution of the applied surfaces emerged out of Walker’s prior experimentation in film. Much of his layers of color are a direct translation of his film projections onto objects. Other works are devoid of color, which Walker labels “ghosts”, yet they have an equal amount of drama inherent in their presence. Another contrast to the totem pieces are the works Walker titles “vases”. These works are also illuminated by the vivid hues of the paint transfer process; however, in this variation the tops of the pieces appear to explode open and upwards in the most baroque of sensibilities. When seen in mass, the undulating variations from totems, to vases, and ghosts, animate the room. The landscape is brought back by a forest of sculpture. Singularly and collectively, Guy Walker’s fabrications are a rumination on the fragility of our psychological and literal landscape.