Things Forgotten: Paintings by Ryan Schroeder and Andrew Karnes at Galerie Francoise reviewed by Matt Klos
Two young painters mount an ambitious exhibition at Galerie Francoise. Things Forgotten features the work of artists Ryan Schroeder and Andrew Karnes. Both painters attended MICA for undergraduate school and Schroeder is currently completing an MFA at New York Academy of Art (’15) while Karnes went on to earn his MFA at BU’s College of Fine Arts. Both painters reveal a common core in silent pensive interiors. Yet key differences emerge between these artists in treatment of surface, the interior motif, and the emotional base of the works.
Schroeder’s six large canvases command attention and their expansiveness is unimpeded by the grand fifteen foot interior walls of Galerie Francoise. Five smaller paintings by Schroeder line the front wall of the gallery with a small tondo nested in the center of the far wall. His paintings of an abandoned duck farming town in Riverhead, New York and abandoned buildings in both Shanghai and Leipzig reveal many scrutinized moments of detail but remain openly painted. Distressed timbers lean against walls that allow light to leak through. Large metal scraps and debris litter the floors of these cold empty rooms. All of the large paintings, except one, are predominantly matte and their lack of luster coupled with paint scrubbed into the fibers of the burlap leaves an eerie impression. The surfaces are scumbled and stained with strategically located elements of thick impasto.
Schroeder is a mixologist using all manner of elements as additives to his paint including marble dust, dryer lint, human hair and scraps found on site. On his relatively sheer surfaces an occasional mass of paint and material, reminiscent of the globs of goo that sometimes build up in shower drains, adds to a feeling of malaise. These masses amplify the juxtaposition that exists between the quality of illusion and the attention to surface that Schroeder obsessively fights to balance even if, at times, the masses feel a bit too stuck on. Schroeder’s small paintings contain an incredible amount of muscularity and decisiveness. A tilting composition, “Interior 3,” depicts a wall, floor, and distant doorway that manifest itself through the tooling of dense paint. The strength of this painting matches that of the large works.
Andrew Karnes exhibits seven smallish works and two large paintings immediately to the right as you enter the gallery. His paintings rely on a decidedly tonal structure, but within that structure colors emanate. “The Meeting” is perhaps his strongest painting in the exhibition and it becomes apparent that this ‘gray’ painting is really a somewhat globular flow of subtle colors. Golden grays ooze into blue gray and then a violet as sections of the floor and the metal folding chairs overlap and dissolve into one another. His surfaces are somewhat thickly painted, semi-gloss, and sensual. Karnes’s subjects of interior environments, primarily of his studio and perhaps a college classroom, reveal pensive intimate views that have a universal quality but under his hand become deeply personal.
Each painter ultimately seems to be concerned with opposite poles of the interior working world. Schroeder portrays a blue collar world that seems to be fading into memory. I’m reminded of this by my daily commute past the now closed Bethlehem Steel Plant which used to employ over thirty-thousand workers and is currently being dismantled in hunks round the clock as I type these words. The other world is that of the knowledge worker and, in Karnes’s case, this is the not quite white-collar world of the classroom and cubicle interior.
Schroeder overwhelms us with austere cold places and the force of the paintings and the latent emotionalism creates a robust tension. His industrial interiors have become outmoded. They are the inner bowels of the leviathan that have produced our objects of consumption. Karnes’ interiors invite us in and enable us to trace the simple forms of everyday objects as he did by patiently responding to the soft light spilling from fluorescent lamps and windows just beyond the picture plane. The force of these paintings can easily be missed due to their non-confrontational stance. Karnes’s interiors reveal a pensive and poetic space that rewards a viewer’s slow read.
This exhibition, while presenting the work of two significant young talents, is also a celebration of Galerie Francoise, a venue which has steadfastly served up contemporary art to Baltimore viewers for nearly 25 years. The gallery’s director, Mary Jo Gordon, opened her gallery in 1988 with a series of outdoors sculpture exhibitions at Greenspring Station. In 2000 the gallery moved to their current location in Woodberry, although it has moved to a much grander space within the building in recent years. To see the space, meet the director, and the artists highlighted in Things Forgotten stay tuned for a discussion at the gallery which is tentatively set for mid-May.
Author Matthew Klos is a perceptual painter, curator, and a professor at Anne Arundel Community College.