Dolby Chadwick Gallery is delighted to present Elizabeth Fox’s My Darling Clouds. Fox’s paintings are siren songs that live in a sphere somewhere between the subconscious and the magical. Her figures are often pale, ghostly, smoke & mirror, more shape than body. The world they move through is one that’s at once mundane—an office, a bus stop, a street with trash cans—and surreal: it’s as if Fox is squeezing the real out of reality, and what’s left is an etherealized version of strange, dream-like beauty.
Each of her paintings tells us a story. Religious themes like annunciation or resurrection are next to images of beauty and sexuality, power dynamics and vulnerability, Botticelli and Beyonce. There is something puzzling about the narratives though, as if they were unfinished, unresolved, dots in need of connecting, and it’s this enigmatic quality that pulls the viewer in. It’s hard to look away from Fox’s paintings.
The mystery isn’t just a result of missing clues; rather, it’s at the core of Fox’s universe which is center-less, painted from a view from nowhere. The people in her paintings are neither individuals, nor archetypes. They don’t carry messages or proclaim ideologies. And yet, each of Fox’s figures carries an emotionality that is clear and so strong that it’s nearly palpable. Raccoon ladies look at us startled but completely unabashed; a lonely Venus defiantly affirms her beauty in the parking lot of a laundromat; and human Lemurs play in a tree with the agility and innocence of monkeys, and the sensuousness and calculated awareness of dance performers.
Often, Fox says, her paintings begin with a vision of a visually striking image, and the significance of that image only reveals itself after the fact. They stem from a realm in which the visual and the verbal are not separated yet.
Fox’s fluency in the language of pop culture is visible in her use of candy-colors and neo-naïve compositions. Yet, her artistic roots go back to artists such as Douglas Bourgeois, the late Chuck Crosby, or Kerry James Marshall. Fox uses smooth surfaces onto which she layers thin coats of color (usually black and white) to create an even denser surface to work off. This underlying opaqueness forms an extraordinary contrast to the ethereal pastel colors and the frequent plays with light and transparency.
The men in her paintings often appear faceless and stiff; the women, by contrast, exude sensuality through their evocative body language, exaggerated forms, and dreamy eyes. They are distributed across the canvas with a painterly sense of rhythm rather than realism, and set against an abstract background that conveys the dominance of feeling-tone over verisimilitude. Fox’s style is not easily classified but may cautiously be characterized as magical pop-art.
Elizabeth Fox was born in Orlando, Florida. She attended the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota before she moved to New Orleans and eventually to Maine. She has exhibited her work in New York City, New Orleans, San Francisco, Miami, Washington DC, Houston, the Netherlands and at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA).
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is delighted to present Chris Cosnowski’s Might and Main.
Cosnowski continues his exploration of the conflicted soul of our pop culture. His toys, trophies, models and other Americana transport us into a world that’s both playful and haunting, sacred and silly, minimal and complex. In Might and Main, a phrase from the 12th century meaning with as much effort or strength as one can muster, many of Cosnowski’s figures are raising their fists in a gesture that speaks equally of assertion and desperation. A gesture that perfectly encapsulates our current situation. All of these figures seem to have jumped right out of a nostalgic childhood dream. Plastic toys depict characters from classical Greek mythology and trophies remind us of past glory and success. But there is no real strength depicted in these figures. Despite their gloriously shiny surfaces, experience tells us that the trophies are hollow, cheap spray-plated plastic. The figures are placed dead center in the middle of the painting, making them appear isolated and lonely. Each is painted with a heartrendingly loving hyper-realism, yet set against an empty, monochromatic background which turns them into objects of an abstract world.
Cosnowski doesn’t add any commentary, he doesn’t need to. His toys and trophies perfectly capture the harrowing soul of American culture and all it represents. Our nostalgic longing for simplicity, the inherent hollowness and betrayal, and its inescapable charms … and just like Cosnowski’s face peers back at the viewer in the reflection in his trophies, we see our own longing looking at us through the eyes of his plastic toys.
Cosnowski’s paintings are derived from classical still lifes in the tradition of the Dutch breakfast painters and JBS Chardin. Rather than depicting fruits or dead flowers, however, his subjects revel in references to the world of pop-art and pop culture. His photo-realistic style is sublimated by the minute, even obsessive attention to detail and geometric perfection that render Cosnowski’s still lifes into works of idealized art. “Ultimately,” Cosnowski says, “I’m a closet minimalist who creates Neo-Classicist Pop-Art.”
There is also a spiritual dimension to Cosnowski’s art. Seemingly, his paintings are ironic commentaries on the golden calves we worship in our secular age—cheap trophies and mass-produced toys. And yet, they are painted without judgment, with no detail left out and a humility that borders on devotion. The monochromatic abstract backgrounds are reminiscent of medieval icons, but instead of the traditional saints there are idealized toys and trophies looking at us with their empty, lifeless eyes. We feel that in spite of their silliness his figures have a simplicity and presence about them, a rarified purity, that is ennobling.
Cosnowski was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1968. In 1992, he graduated with a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and in 2000 with a MFA in painting from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Since 2003 he has been a faculty member at the American Academy of Art in Chicago where he teaches advanced painting, intermediate drawing and portfolio.
Cosnowski has been included in numerous group exhibitions and has had more than a dozen solo exhibitions in cities throughout the US, in particular NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, as well as a 10-year retrospective at South Shore Arts in Munster, IN.