Why Are You Drawing Faces Like That?

DALLAS — A singular face seems throughout James Gilbert’s exhibition I Don’t Know, You Don’t Know, They Don’t Know at Erin Cluley Gallery. Ovular and slender with deep-set eyes and sealed lips, the face is the central topic of colourful drawings on paper and painted wooden sculptures. Its clean expression and cartoonish, wing-like ears give off a way of awkward solemnity, whereas the face’s baldness and generic options evade the specificity of a sure race, gender, or age. Who is that this determine, and why is it so pervasive in Gilbert’s work?

The reply stays open-ended, although the query has been requested numerous occasions. Gilbert’s giant drawings characteristic the face in tightly-packed groupings, whereas his smaller works — there are greater than 130 of them on one wall of the gallery — present it in particular person portraits. Every time, layers of additional eyes, lips, and ears float throughout the faces, suggesting crowded multiplicity and motion. As well as, energetic dashes, squiggles, and different exploratory shapes float and bounce round every head like unfastened power fields. 

Giacometti’s drawn portraits come to thoughts when viewing Gilbert’s swirling, frenetic traces, although the Los Angeles-based artist’s rainbow colours and leaping marks really feel decidedly lighter and extra joyful than his predecessor’s. There does appear to be a need on Gilbert’s half to maneuver into extra complicated conceptual territory, however heavy titles like “Historical past and Custom I” (2022) and “The Circumstances” (2022) don’t match the apparent enjoyable he should be having whereas making these splashy, vibrant works.

(Background) James Gilbert, “The Downside and the Resolution” (2020), wooden, stain, paint, pigmented wax, magnet, 13.75 x 4 x 4 inches; (foreground) James Gilbert, “The Nice Migration and Age of Exploration” (2019), wooden, stain, paint, pigmented wax, 68 x 19 x 13 inches

Gilbert’s wooden sculptures have a slower, extra stable really feel to them. The identical face from the drawings reappears as a three-dimensional carved head, and once more, repetition reigns. In “My Sense of Humor is Difficult by My Character” (2019), ten heads painted white sprout from a wood college desk like mushrooms. And within the poetically-titled “Night Would Deliver its Acquainted Strangeness” (2022), two extra white heads mirror one another, joined on the neck. Largely monochrome with mushy, hand-chiseled surfaces, these works are notably quieter than the drawings. However they’re additionally extra dynamic, with a larger potential for narrative and even comedy. 

For instance, shut inspection of “The Factor You’re Trying For is the Factor You Weren’t Trying For” (2021) — a sculpture additionally carved and painted within the artist’s signature white — reveals a disjointed nostril and curled ear poking unexpectedly via a lopsided block on legs. Like a lot of Gilbert’s sculpture, the piece’s influence falls between a comedic wink and a plea for empathy. One thing related happens within the grandly-titled “The Nice Migration and Age of Exploration” (2019), the place two stone-faced, charcoal-colored carved heads are capped or maybe pushed down by a clunky Pepto Bismol-colored hand. 

(Background)James Gilbert, “The place Does I and We Start” (2022), gouache, watercolor, ink, coloured pencil on paper, 52 x 42 inches; (foreground) James Gilbert, “Kneel” (2020), wooden, stain, pigmented wax, steel, 20 x 22 x 22 inches

The identical uncomfortable shade of pink coats the sexless pair of legs and toes in “Kneel” (2020), which bow blindly with out the excellence of a torso or head. In all of those works, Gilbert makes no try to cover the joints and cracks in his wooden. There’s a refined sense of futility implied by this lack of polish, but additionally a bid for connection: Gilbert’s tough edges remind viewers to think about the maker, the time he’s spent, and the explanations he works the best way he does. As with the ever-present, undefined face, questions are raised. However because the exhibition’s title suggests, a collective not realizing will be the reply.

I Don’t Know, You Don’t Know, They Don’t Know continues at Erin Cluley Gallery (150 Manufacturing St #210, Dallas, Texas 75207) via November 12. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.

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