As We Wander, We Are Closer

Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Francisco, 2016

Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce “As We Wander, We Are Closer,” an exhibition of new work by Ian Kimmerly. Kimmerly’s generously layered paintings provocatively combine figuration and abstraction. Figurative elements, especially faces, are rendered photorealistically, scraped away, and then submerged within a milieu of open spaces, abstract passages, and textured daubs of paint.  

Kimmerly explains that technology’s impact on our interpersonal relationships has played a role in the creation of this body of work. Smart phones and social media, among other tools, have heightened our ability to remain constantly connected with one another, yet the type of connection facilitated is largely fleeting and immaterial. It exists in contradistinction to true forms of conversation, which are predicated on an open and sustained dialogue that goes beyond surface-level exchange. As the show’s title suggests, however, letting ourselves wander and drift in unstructured ways and embracing solitude can allow us to go deeper and recharge, equipping us with more to give when we finally return to those interactive moments. 

The paintings themselves loosely chart this type of open engagement with the world. Their layered constructions create matrices of form, gesture, texture, and color through which to move and discover manifold relationships. Despite the presence of figures—whose blurred, sgrafitto quality is reminiscent of Gerard Richter’s aesthetic—the paintings are neither overtly narrative nor readily digestible. Kimmerly notes his interest in the psychoanalytical concept of subject-object differentiation, which is the state immediately before recognition. When you see something for the first time, you apprehend it at an elemental level. Only after evaluating its material profile can you begin to see it a different way, and even start to name it. These initial stages of processing rely on an openness of perspective and are magnified in Kimmerly’s paintings, which encourage the viewer to take time to work through them and find connections that resolve as meaning.

The painting As We Wander, We Are Closer (2016) features an image of a couple with their faces pressed closely to each other. Although the nature of their relationship is unknown, their pose is one of undeniable intimacy. Exploring the effects of seriality, Kimmerly repeats this images three times at different scales, divesting the private moment of any overt preciousness. The changes in scale create a sense of depth and motion, as if the image were flying toward you—an ephemeral bit of data hurtling along the information superhighway. While digital blips in the form of abstract gestures can be seen as obscuring various parts of their faces, it is also possible to read this “noise” as being dispersed as part of a larger process of revelation and formation: for all their weaknesses, digital technologies also harbor great potential. Because their presence in our lives impacts how we view ourselves, our relationships, and our world, they should, in theory, prompt us to reconsider how we want to live our lives. Such shifts in gaze are played upon in Twofold (2016), in which primarily white and peach-toned paints have been dragged horizontally across the eyes of three figures. Several short, dark strokes, however, have been applied on top of the lighter colors, as if transposed eyes, viewing the world not only from a new angle but also through a different lens.