Esao Andrews (HF Vol. 22), João Ruas (HF Vol. 23), and Aaron Horkey are three artists who each share a penchant for stylization and design. Feeling inspired, Aaron Horkey suggested they get together for a new exhibition at Thinkspace Gallery titled “The Gilded Age”. The real Gilded Age took place during late 19th century America, coined by writer Mark Twain, who satirized the era as serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding. Their exhibit embodies the concept of gilding in the artists’ unique combination of illustration and graphic design. Growing up, Horkey was fascinated by ornamentation as he saw it in Art Nouveau, sheet music and railroad bonds, which often featured fantastically elaborate hand-lettering. He continues to incorporate those forms in his latest series of ink works, mixed media drawings and paintings. Whether he is designing letters or drawing animals, they are all rendered with the same design sensibility. He also created intricate labels for the artworks, which could easily be mistaken for stencils but were painstakingly hand-drawn.
Esao Andrews with his artwork on opening night of “The Gilded Age”.
Esao Andrews also plays with style in his moody and surreal paintings. When we last caught up with him, Andrews shared his interest in resurrecting various themes to continue a narrative in newer works. We can see this continuation in paintings like “The Hatchery”, which portrays a little girl fishing from a tree stump. A similiar stump appeared in his 2014 solo “Epilogues”, then portraying a ship being swallowed by rippling tree-rings. The infinite paths of Andrew’s work lead us to new characters like “Pennywink”, dressed in dramatic clothing. Even barn yard animals are decorated with flowers and color. The world they inhabit, with its ornate fixtures and architecture, is only attractive at its surface and not meant to last, as we soon find out in his landscapes.
Long inspired by the images of ancient mythology, João Ruas has always incorporated decorative elements into his paintings and installations to tell a story. As in Andrews’ portraits, costume plays an important role in portraying Ruas’ subjects. Here, Ruas couples his figures and animals with symbols of modern industry. We find nudes and even chickens mutating into a culmination of man and his creations, wearing mechanical hats, and growing robotic appendages. Working mainly in acrylic and gold leaf, Ruas also takes an opportunity to play with floral patterns, as if to suggest man’s ability to create both horror and beauty. Take a look at more images from the opening of “The Gilded Age” below, now on view at Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles through October 3rd.
All photos by Mik Luxon.