March 22, 2014
For his fifth solo show at Anton Kern Gallery, New York artist Dan McCarthy is presenting new paintings, drawings, and a group of ceramic sculptures called Facepots. Figures and faces are his subject matter; intricate paint-transfer processes channel the artist’s message of directness and supreme verve.
The figures seem to live in the light. Looking at the sequence of painted single figures on lightly stained backgrounds and the rows of high-gloss colorful Facepots, it appears as though McCarthy wants his figures to come alive. They possess a presence and life-like spirit that suggests potential action; action appropriate to the artist’s utopian cast of characters comprised of bathers, skaters, dancers, bird-wranglers, philosophers, musicians, on the whole, muses and luminaries. Content and at ease with themselves, entirely free from anxiety, they’re ready to be given free rein to enter and illuminate our ordinary (slightly overcast) lives.
Through McCarthy’s painting process, a type of free gestural figure drawing emerges, like an intimate watercolor sketch only on the scale of a life size painting. The figures become distillations of emotion into line, color, and texture, similar to calligraphy, an effect McCarthy calls “naturalistic caricature.”
I’m actually a process painter. I begin by applying a heavily marbleized gesso to a stretched number 10 canvas, first with a brush and later with a 14” cake decorating knife, in some cases applying up to 40 coats on a single canvas. Images are created by first making a painted image upon a canvas of similar size and pressing it face to face into the canvas with a prepared surface. Transferred, rinsed, stained, pin-striped and tweaked into place, the paintings are related to unique mono-prints. The marbleized ground creates effects and conditions that are specific to the materials: aquatint like washes, ghost lines and the registration of slight mark making. Most traces of direct handwork are removed through the process. (McCarthy)
A ninety-six page illustrated catalog published by Hassla, which includes texts by Mary Heilmann, Timothée Chaillou, and Carlo McCormick accompanies the exhibition.