Charles Gaines — Gridwork : Palm Canyon Watercolors



Charles Gaines
Gridwork : Palm Canyon Watercolors

Past: June 9 → July 30, 2022

Galerie Max Hetzler is pleased to announce Gridwork: Palm Canyon Watercolors, a solo exhibition by Charles Gaines, of new works in watercolour and ink on paper, composed according to a rational arithmetic system. This is the artist’s third solo exhibition with the gallery and second in its Paris location. In these works, Gaines continues to question the idea, prominent in 20th century art, that subjectivity, imagination and individual expression are at the origin of the creative process.

Charles Gaines is one of the major representatives of American conceptual art. Since the 1970s, he has been working with alternative, rule-based systems, combining numerical sequences, principles of cognition and mathematical diagrams to generate images. As an influential educational figure, he has forged an essential bridge between early American conceptual artists such as Sol LeWitt and subsequent generations. Whilst not actively seeking to inscribe his artistic approach into a form of Afro-American representation at the start of his career, Gaines nonetheless disrupted the Establishment, as one of the only African-American figures working in conceptual art at the time. In recent works, the artist has focused on the fight against racism, notably within his Manifesto and Faces: Identity Politics series.

With his drawings, photographic series, works on paper and video installations, Gaines navigates between linguistic compositions and numerical structures as seen in his ongoing Gridwork series, initiated in the 1970s. To make these works, he uses simple calculation grids to produce parabolic shapes in successive layers, eventually leading to the depiction of natural organisms. This methodical approach led Gaines to develop a way of making figurative art out of an automatic pattern and not from his intuition.

The works on view at Galerie Max Hetzler, represent a sequence of palm trees generated by the numbers on the grids following a mathematical order. Gaines first began depicting palm trees in 1980, in his series Geometric Landscape, before returning to them again in 2015 in his Numbers and Trees series. He continues to work with this theme today. By using these timeless structures, designed according to the laws of nature, the artist wishes to question issues of creation through a system of universal and predefined rules. The various tree species that Gaines has worked with throughout his career encourage the viewer to meditate on questions of difference and identity.

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  • Charles Gaines