Travess Smalley

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Travess Smalley

Work from “Capture Physical Presence“.

“Throughout all of this formal experimentation, Smalley is referring to, borrowing from, and combining a broad range of influences. There are, on one hand, the various strategies plucked from art history, particularly 20th century modernism. Some of these allusions are stylistic: echoed throughout the book, for instance, are the bold colors and abstract shapes of Matisse’s Jazz-era decoupage, the line work of Picasso’s later paintings, and the singular compositions of Joan Miro. Others can be found in Smalley’s formal decisions: in some works, we see the artist intensifying his colors by juxtaposing large areas of pure, strident tone – a trick picked up from the Fauves – while numerous other pieces find him embracing the sharp colors, jagged forms, and cacophonous layouts favored by Futurist painters. Closely observed and deeply integrated, the lessons learned from these various artists provide a crucial framework for Smalley’s experiments, but not all of his references are so traditional or academic. Much of this work, for instance, reflects his obvious (and, it should be stressed, unironic) affection for the hallmarks of late-80s/early-90s visual culture: the stylized illustrations of trapper keepers, the cyber-psychedelia of rave flyers, the pure-pleasure aesthetics of Ocean Pacific t-shirts and Magic Eye patterns. Other, more recent references include those made to web 2.0 graphics (particularly its gradients) and manga comics (both its paneling strategies and its action-sequence line work). These “low-art” influences, having clearly played an important role in shaping Smalley’s graphic sensibilities, are treated here as being no less legitimate or useful than the inspiration he’s found in museums and textbooks. They’ve also had a permissive effect on the work, invested as they are in visual pleasure over academic strategy, and lend to these pages a welcome element of playfulness. Traditional or unconventional, low or high, it makes no difference: everything Smalley has seen and loved, aesthetically speaking, is incorporated into his art, and it’s this ability to merge disparate influences into a singular style that allows the results to feel at once nostalgic, contemporary, and forward-thinking.”  – Christopher Schreck

“Capture Physical Presence” is on exhibit at Higher Pictures,  May 2nd – June 1st

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