"Tactical Grace," Fisher Parrish Gallery, NYC
Precisionism was born in the 1920s, and is arguably one of the first American art movements. The works of the Precisionists were known for clean, geometric forms that glorified the industrial American landscape. It went on to influence the Pop artists of the 1960s, and then continued to influence and evolve through the post-modern era. Today, the mechanical and industrial roots of the art from the early twentieth-century still play out in the practices of many artists (especially in America). In a new exhibition called Tactical Grace at Fisher Parrish Gallery, one can see these original influences along with new discoveries in the work of Tricia Keightley and Chris Beeston.
To begin, it is important to state that this show is simply gorgeous to look at. Set within Fisher Parrish’s Brooklyn gallery space, the exhibition proposes a dialogue between the paintings of Keightley and the sculptures of Beeston. Keightley’s paintings line the walls in vibrant industrial shades of teal, magenta, red, gunmetal, and cobalt. Painted in a flat, technical style, they recall pure Charles Demuth or Charles Sheeler. The compositions of these paintings resemble diagrams or as the press release mentions “patent submissions and engineering plans.” However, upon closer inspection, these are entirely nonsensical inventions. These various machine components are used as compositional devices. Rather than a literal depiction, these are amusing and elegantly imagined creations.
On the other hand, Chris Beeston puts Knightley’s paintings into a three-dimensional realm. Placed all on a single table, Beeston’s small and intricate works create a tableau that resembles a series of lab experiments. This hits the right note since many of these sculptures are Frankenstein-esque assemblages of cheap commercial products. The most interesting and bizarre examples are Beeston’s “lamps” made from lighters, food containers, and electronic and LED components. Intricate polyhedrons made of paper and glue or bits of wire are not as flashy, but they’re beautiful in their delicacy and mathematical craft. By using the detritus and components of commercial products, Beeston’s vision led to these absurd inventions.
Keightley and Beeston make art that takes different routes to similar ends. Keightley uses improvisation and a knowledge of mechanic imagery to create large-scale, fantasy inventions.
Beeston, rather than appropriating two-dimensional images, uses the remnants of the world around him to create his own models and creations. Although both recall their American predecessors, especially the Precisionists of the ‘20s and ‘30s, they go beyond representing a bygone industrial culture that no longer exists in the United States. They are proposing their own post-industrial vision of the world.