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Freight + Volume “Likely Stories”

May 18 – 23, 2019, PLEASE NOTE: THE ABRAZO GALLERY WILL BE OPEN 6-9PM TODAY, MAY 31st  AND 4-8PM TOMORROW, SATURDAY, JUNE 1ST FOR THE "LIKELY STORIES" RECEPTION Regular gallery hours are 3:30 - 7pm daily, Abrazo Interno Gallery

Eloy Arribas, Becky Brown, Paul Gagner, Samuel Jablon, Ezra Johnson, David Kramer, Walter Robinson, Tom Sanford, Lisa Sanditz, and Ryan Steadman 
May 18th – June 23rd, 2019
Public Reception: Friday, May 31st, 6-9 pm & June 1st, 4-8 pm
during Open Doors Open Studios at The Clemente 
107 Suffolk St. between Rivington and Delancey

Paul Gagner, Installation view at The ClementeHoward Moseley MD series,  2016-2018
Freight+Volume is excited to announce Likely Stories, a group exhibition of paintings by Eloy Arribas, Becky Brown, Paul Gagner, Samuel Jablon, Ezra Johnson, David Kramer, Walter Robinson, Tom Sanford, Lisa Sanditz, and Ryan Steadman. Curated by Nick Lawrence, the exhibition is on display at the Abrazo and LES Galleries on the first and second floors of The Clemente Center from May 19th through June 23rd, 3:30-7 PM every day. Sharing common threads of humor and hyperbole, along with a predilection for discreet, anecdotal snapshots, the works on view probe the micro-narratives of everyday life, depicting these private dramas as they unfold in a variety of contexts, from Walter Robinson’s pulp-romance and advertisement-inspired imagery to Tom Sanford’s sardonic, raconteur-like portraits and Lisa Sanditz’s fantastical, surreal tableaux of domestic life. Hinging on the allusive, suggestive nature of language, Eloy Arribas, Becky Brown, Samuel Jablon, Ezra Johnson and David Kramer’s contributions highlight the malleability and duplicity of meaning hidden in words and communication, while Paul Gagner and Ryan Steadman both appropriate the book cover format in their work, alluding to alternative narratives hidden behind our preconceptions of the medium.
The Clemente offers support services and subsidized administrative, studio, rehearsal, community and performance/exhibition space to artists and nonprofit arts organizations; venue rentals for performance, and public programs that reflect and advance the Center’s vision.  Housed in a city-owned architectural landmark-quality building, the five-story, 98,000 square foot building has two art galleries; four theaters; three rehearsal/multi-use rooms, an outdoor plaza, and 46 visual arts studios.  It is also home to 11 performing, arts, and educational organizations.

Eloy Arribas, Darklight, 2018, acrylics, collage and wooden collage on wooden panel, 72 x 48 in.
Adopting an informal, atelier-like methodology, Eloy Arribas leaves the seams of his process visible, exalting the physicality of his impasto brushwork and the diverse textures of his supports. Pairing simple, almost crude images with their descriptive names, the elemental compositions of Wine and Sandia recall a childlike-naivety and wonderment, reframing seemingly mundane objects such a glass of wine and piece of watermelon as sites of artistic creation.

Becky Brown, A New Kind of Conversation, 2016
pencil and ink on paper
52 x 72 in.
Working within a diaristic, intimately personal framework, Becky Brown’s paintings use the mechanisms of repetition and recapitulation to simultaneously emphasize and deconstruct the meaning of her texts; in some works, such as I want to squeeze you, repetition amplifies the urgency and intention of the namesake phrase, presenting in a singularity of meaning that parallels the often overwhelming nature of desire, while in other pieces, it dissolves the original meaning, evoking alternate readings and interpretations of the text. Many of Brown’s paintings feature idioms of digital communication, including abstracted search bars, speech bubbles, and cursors, creating a physical analogy for digital modes of communication. Pairing vulnerability with a turn towards irony and dark humor (particularly evident in Divorce, which depicts a cursor over a button labeled “Divorce”), her works also comment on the complicated and often messy overlap of the personal and private in the digital space.

Paul Gagner, Coping With (Career) Death, 2018, oil on canvas, 12 x 9 in.
Paul Gagner’s work in Likely Stories presents facsimile covers for imagined books by his fictional persona, Howard Moseley, MD. Modeled after the books of so-called “self-help gurus,” Gagner uses the painted covers as a vehicle to explore his own doubts and anxieties, particularly regarding creativity and the artistic ego. Shifting perspectives and an almost ironic cynicism underpin the work, heightened by the artist’s capacity for comedic exaggeration; Coping With (Career) Death conflates career stagnation with actual death, and depicts an artist painting a self-portrait as a crying clown, while Secret Societies and Insult Your Opponents portray the art world as rife with paranoia, treachery, and inequality. Weaving the self-doubt endemic to the artist’s psyche into imagery relatable to both viewers and other artists, Gagner’s Howard Moseley, MD paintings fuse text, image, and appropriation into reflexive meta-narratives.

Samuel Jablon, Do Everything Wrong Just Once, 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 38 x 34 in.
Fusing painting and poetry, Samuel Jablon’s paintings transform snatches of text into expressive, richly textured compositions that blur the line between language and abstraction. Like Becky Brown, he uses techniques of repetition, variation, and unorthodox spacing and formatting to alter the implied meaning of his source texts, especially visible in works like Do Everything Wrong Just Once and The Horror, wherein ricocheting juxtapositions of overlapping and disjointed words project a multiplicity of meaning and tense. By deconstructing and morphing the forms of individual words Jablon transforms his texts into open-ended, ebullient mantras.

Ezra Johnson, Psychic Reading, 2018, acrylic, oil, and enamel on paper
11.5x 23 in framed
Ezra Johnson’s work incorporates elements of painting, stop-frame animation, and sculpture, the fluidity of materials and techniques that allows him to traverse mediums and narrative formats. Investigating the intersection between public versus private, historical versus contemporary, and formal versus topical considerations, his work on display in Likely Stories centers around “Cap’n Crunch” cereal and its branding, a mass-marketed product that both literally and figuratively sugarcoats mythologies of America’s history. The Cap’n, dressed in an American Revolutionary-style naval uniform, serves as a symbol of American imperialism and the related cliches and mythologies; sifted through the layers of nostalgia and memories that the cereal evokes, the resulting work presents a dynamic overlap of history and the present. In Cap’n Crunch Oops! All Berries, an oversize painted wooden replica of a cereal box, Johnson disrupts the conventions of subject and representation, fusing the two into a larger-than-life totem of consumerism and misplaced history.

David Kramer, Good Editor, 2014Oil/Enimal/Gessoed canvas, 61×60 in.

Also working primarily with text and language, David Kramer’s work sits at the intersection between “his own owned-up self-deprecating views of his place in life” and the lifestyle expectations and consumerist standards depicted in the vintage magazine advertisements he culls his source material from, riffing off this discord between reality and the glossy, lavish parallel universe they display. In Genius Time, Kramer emblazons the words “Buy Low, Sell High” over a cityscape, sardonically reducing the constant ebb-and-flow of business, commerce, and consumerism to a glib, almost apathetic slogan.

Walter Robinson, The Chinese Keyhole, 2017 Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 in.

Balancing satire and reverence, Walter Robinson’s paintings draw from magazine advertisements and the cover illustrations of pulp romance and crime novels; as if descending from some pop culture ID, they simultaneously exaggerate and epitomize a certain strain of the ’60s and ’70s cultural tropes, shifting between emotional intensity and a sort of parody of the format. Crossing medium boundaries, Robinson often paints Polaroids and copies of advertisements, creating sub-layers of narrative and allusion within his images.

Tom Sanford, Shepard Fairey Fight, 2011, Oil on Panel, 40 x 50 in.

Embracing a raconteur-like approach to portraiture, Tom Sanford’s paintings in Likely Storiesdepict acquaintances, strangers, and quotidian scenes of urban life, rendered in an exaggerated, caricature-esque style. In Shepard Fairey Fight and A Bird in the Hand, both bar scenes, he captures the bipolar extremes of city life, with the former depicting an all-out brawl between groups of punks and skinheads and the latter a placid game of cards. Both images are riddled with signifiers and specks of dark humor; in Shepard Fairey Fight, one of the brawlers wears the infamous OBEY logo, while the list of beers behind the patrons in A Bird in the Hand seems to poke fun at the elitism of contemporary consumer culture and “hipsterism”, with names such as “Arrogant Bastard”, “Yellow Snow”, and “Old Blowhole” dispersed among names of conventional IPA’s and craft beers.

Lisa Sanditz, A Possible Christmas Dinner, 2019, acrylic on canvas,42 x 54 in.

Traversing an array of domestic environments, from the “mancave” to more intimate (and perhaps voyeuristic) bedroom and bathroom scenes, Lisa Sanditz queries our relationships with our own abodes and the manifold narratives nested within such spaces. In A Possible Christmas Dinner and Suburban Basement Snakes 2, she suffuses stereotypical suburban imagery with a menacing tenor, suggesting disquieting parallel narratives. In the former, the faces of the family members are smudged and obscured, and a body lays under the dining room table; meanwhile, in the latter, the subject has a riddling and seemingly incongruous collection of snakes, framing the structures of domestic life as environs rife with psychological energy and a sense of twisted humor.

Ryan Steadman, Catcher 1st Edition, 2019, oil on canvas, 20 x16 in.
Reducing the covers of classic literature to abstracted planes of colors, Ryan Steadman chips away at the preconceptions and cultural history associated with them, opening them up to the viewer’s own reinterpretation. Void of any title or author name, the covers of books such as A Clockwork OrangeThe Great Gatsby, and The Catcher in the Rye appear naked, presenting a charged ambiguity that beckons the viewer to fill in their own narrative.

In their divergent approaches, incorporating storytelling, humor, and wordplay, the artists on view in Likely Stories reflect the versatility of painting and its ability to express narrative regardless of being representational, abstract, or text-based. Moreover, they display a prescient ability to highlight and amplify the stories hidden in plain sight, whether in the lull of suburbia or the bustle of the urban metropolis.

Ezra Johnson, Installation view at The Clemente of various works, 2017-2019