“favors”, New Paintings by Lukey Walden at An Sylvia Exhibitions in Chicago

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“favors” at An Sylvia Exhibitions

“favors”, New Paintings by Lukey Walden is the inaugural exhibition at the newest gallery on the block, An Sylvia Exhibitions in the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago. The tiny gallery is housed in the spacious lobby of a circa 1925 building, in what I think must have been its concierge station. Through the leaded glass window the artworks peek out into the vestibule. Walden’s paintings have a familiarity in their sketchy suggestion and in flux qualities. I would guess that Berthe Marisot and Bonnard are art historic comrades of the artist and perhaps so too are more recent painters Elizabeth Peyton, Jennifer Packer and Salman Toor. 

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All Images courtesy of An Sylvia Exhibitions. "Untitled", 32” x 44”, Oil on Canvas, 2019

Lukey Walden’s canvases are modestly sized, the brush-marks are loose and their palette is classical, earthy and inorganic. The representations that emerge are synoptic interiors unfettered to specificity of a face or a place. The painter opts for ambiguous suggestions over detailed description. What we see, the appearances that surface, are released from the restraints of pictorial conventions. The inhabitants of these pictures are freed from being either this or that; figure or ground, solid or atmosphere, here they are compositionally equal, one and the same. Each composition is made up of forms both dissolving and appearing, with the exception of Rootbound (2019), which is by name and in paint handling thoroughly grounded.

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"Room before moving away", 35” x 23”, Oil on Canvas, 2019

Like dreaming, painting is a process a little out of our control. We can’t choose what we dream and we are often surprised by how dreams unfold.  As perplexing as dreams often are, they are made up of our personal experiences, lived, imagined, remembered, all strung together like a garland to form the dream. The stringing is an unknown component and it lets in the unpredictable. In the case of painting the stringing is firstly, the unfolding of marks. Each mark holding within it both the artist’s psychic drama and a decision. A mark is always made in reply to the one made before it. The artwork is an amalgam of moves: logical, emotional, spasmodic and meditated. Secondly, is the stringing together of the artists’ body of work, proximity letting out all kinds of unexpected connections. Artists interested in revealing the unknown in their work collaborate with their physical materials in a different way than those interested in realism. They step back and let the paint itself have a say and they await the poetry that unfolds in and between their images over time days, months, years…. 

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"Quaill Club Basement", 9” x 12”, Oil on Canvas, 2019

I imagine the strategy for many of these paintings is like trying to hold something watery in a leaky container. What we see on the canvas is what remains held. The captured stuff being of the utmost importance to the painter. Often what Walden’s canvas holds is only a step or two away from nothingness, a complete abstraction, as in Panel for an Absent Painter (2019) or Quaill Club Basement (2019). In both works, the facture is so open that they challenge readability. I found a container for some of my lingering childhood fears of basements and an ongoing one of visual impairment in their almost nothingness. 

In our Instagram world, all is registered and transmitted at lightning speed and perhaps consumed and forgotten as fast. When you stand in front of the paintings at An Sylvia, you experience fixed transmissions. Transmissions of the artist’s perception, facture imbued with thought and time. Looking at paintings in real life offers us an image steeped in psychic drama in which we read by mixing it with our own. 

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"Juniper, somewhere outside", 18” x 24”, Oil on Canvas, 2019

The point of view of many of the pictures is like that of a neglected house pet, near to the ground and our humans unresponsive. There is a general unease to the paintings. One person reads a book in Juniper, somewhere outside (2019) but mostly the subjects  sit, lay or prop themselves up not doing anything. They are absently present, merging psychically and physically with their surroundings. The paintings are not easily consumed; they tremble with hesitation. They do not offer a lot of sensual pleasure in the places we usually find it, color, texture, narrative, etc. Instead, they lead you in with a heavy hand and clumsy touch to squint and scan through the murky ambiance and acerbic color. To preserve this ambiguous, muddled atmosphere, light is often arrived at indirectly, through revealing the lighter value color layers below. The surfaces often seem too slick for the paint handling and appear battered in the process of these brutal erasures. 

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"Montana", 11” x14”, Oil on Canvas, 2019

Paintings liberate the painter in that they give us space to tear down, reconfigure, omit, invent… For the painter the act of painting is an act of hope, resisting the pull of the weight of the world which feels so fixed. There on the canvas we can imagine new ways of living. Each mark proposes ways of getting from here to there, wherever “there” is. A shadowy semblance of there is brewing in the atmosphere that hovers in Lukey Walden’s images, revealing itself stroke by stroke in cadmium yellows and reds, cobalt blue, green, and violet.

"favors" Exhibition Info

ArtistLukey Walden
GalleryAn Sylvia Exhibitions
Address1154 West Lunt Ave. Chicago Il 60626
HoursBy appointment, contact on Instagram to schedule.
New EventTHE WOMAN I LOVE THE MOST: Magritte Nankin Postponed check gallery for updates.