Josh Keyes (HF Vol 12 cover artist) and Brin Levinson (covered here) both illustrate an affinity for animals in their paintings. Working in acrylic and oil respectively, their collective exhibition “Reclamation of Nowhere”, which opens tomorrow at Antler Gallery in Portland, illustrates desolate environments from the animal’s point of view. Josh Keyes chose to convey feelings of liberation and reclamation in his new series. “It is suggesting surrender, or letting go, or loosening of the psychological framework and preconceptions that can sometimes hold and restrain our imagination and natural impulses,” he explains. In previous works, the artist set certain restrictions for himself stylistically, working with elements such as depth of field and dramatic lighting. Instead of being compartmentalized, animals appear here in their natural state. Their world unfolds in diagrammatical displays that recall bizarre Natural History Museum dioramas. Though dramatic, the world they inhabit is also fragile. Keyes conveys its fragility by playing with scale and emphasizing the animals’ size in comparison to their surroundings.
“The Visit” by Brin Levinson
Brin Levinson’s oil paintings expand on themes he has been working on for the last several years; surreal scenes of animals living in urban environments. In these new works, Levinson gave his animals an added emotional depth: “The animals are curious about where they are; they’re innocent and you can relate on a pure level. The landscapes are a labyrinth of obstacles. The animals are there to point out the absurdity and impermanence of the contrived reality that we exist in.” Levinson paints his subjects with near-photographic precision that feels like old and faded film. This creates a moodiness and drama that adds to the sentient portrayal of his characters. As in his painting “The Visit”, an image of a shark swimming past a decaying apartment building, each has an underlying narrative that Levinson leaves open-ended for his viewers. “The buildings have windows with rusty bars on them, I assume to keep the sharks from coming in,” he imagines. There is something tragic yet bittersweet in the idea of a human-less world reclaimed by nature. In spite of this deteriorating “nowhere”, the endurance of life in the face of trauma also leaves us with a sense of hope.
“Reclamation of Nowhere” New paintings by Josh Keyes and Brin Levinson will be on view at Antler Gallery from July 29th through August 25th.