Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to present Dear Stranger, an exhibition of new paintings by Ian Kimmerly.
Dear Stranger acts as the artist’s love letter to the anonymous people we pass as we go about our lives and daily routines. So often, we find ourselves with our heads down, focused and internal, blind to the personhood of the people around us. In the wake of these years of mandated distance and tenuous relationships, Kimmerly invites the viewer to experience the potential for emotional openness and meaningful connection, hoping kindness, beauty, and mutual respect will shape our collective future.
In these new paintings, images of crowds appear often as liminal spaces between social solidarity and individualism, spaces where opportunities for connection are rife but not often pursued. These images call to mind the emotionally charged nature of space in the wake of the pandemic, invoking the vulnerability of feeling others move around you. In this state of heightened sensitivity, Kimmerly highlights the capacity for interaction and openness, as if the negative space between us is not fuel to repel but opportunity to connect.
Kimmerly’s paintings are highly layered compositions of almost tactile materiality that straddle the line between figuration and abstraction. He skillfully renders realistic faces, figures and foliage, intertwining distinct images to drive connection and conversation between them, then abstracts them with sweeping strokes of paint. These broad horizontal bands indicate a sense of temporality and motion, allowing the viewer to feel the distance between how things are assembled and how you interpret them.
In many of the new paintings, Kimmerly’s usual cool blue palette is suffused with flesh tones of beiges and pinks, instilling these paintings with a sense of intimacy. In Proximity, peachy hues intermingle with grayish blues as we experience the warmth of physical touch and togetherness against the cool air of distance. In Traces, an arresting shade of deep blue washes over the canvas with sparks of red in its midst, an intensified extension of these contrasting temperatures and complementary emotions. In Kimmerly’s work, components of dichotomies find themselves in one another: warmth in coolness, abstraction in figuration, togetherness in distance.
Kimmerly deftly creates emotional content without naming a specific emotion. Each work is a literal and figurative palimpsest of interactions: emotional attachments and disengagements, foregrounded figures in conversation or conflict. In Through the Fingertips, a denser midline of close-up communication falls between natural imagery on top and bottom, creating an intimate moment amidst distance and open space. The liminality between togetherness and separation is again clear as these two states are interwoven.
In creating the work for this show, Kimmerly often returned to one chance encounter in what he refers to as a “classic,” almost cliché story: an older woman approaches him for help navigating a busy city block. The two begin talking and he listens to her, hears about her life, and as he leaves her a bit later, he is struck with how internal our focus can be; how fast we can move; how estranged we can be to those standing right next to us. Dear Stranger is an homage to these tender moments, when we lift our heads and embrace this openness, reinvigorating the sense of beauty and motion and liveliness all around us.
Ian Kimmerly was born in Northport, Michigan, in 1980. He earned his BFA from the University of Michigan in 2002 and his MFA from the University of Arizona in 2005. He has exhibited both internationally and nationally, including at the DeYoung Open Exhibition and the Richmond Art Center, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships. This will be his third solo show at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.