Taped to the exterior wall of Sue Scott gallery during Franklin Evans’s exhibition were a couple of layered sheets of bubble wrap; a square hole in the center showed cryptic numbers scribbled in colored pen on the wall. This was the first one saw of Evans’s show, and it signaled his ambitious attempt to materialize his studio—and thought processes—and to turn both inside out.
The stairs to the gallery were adorned in cardboard, neon tape and paint spills, while the entrance was sheathed in a messy wallpaper of last year’s exhibition press releases, occasionally covered by a bulge of bubble wrap or layered tape. The main room revealed a delightfully dizzying explosion of Evans’s currently favored materials: paint bottles and a spool of hot-pink thread perched on a roof beam; lopsided balls of rolled tape drooped from the wall and congregated on a windowsill (Eva Hesse in the age of Office Depot?); piles of art books and pieces of wood blocked a window; and an eggshell, postcard and other detritus nestled in a corner. An image of a leafless tree was subtly repeated throughout the show, appearing in framed or taped-up watercolors, in degraded digital printouts and on graph paper where each painted square was a pixel of saturated color. Throughout, there was a bounty of tape—pink, neon green, yellow and blue: painted and scribbled on; hung from the ceiling to form a screen; and stuck neatly to the wall or the floor in horizontal, vertical and diagonal bars.
Evans is known for his abstract paintings of loose, brightly colored geometries—they are something like a cross between the frenzied detail of Terry Winters’s work and Julie Mehretu’s sharp explosive forms. During a residency last year, Evans’s cleanly painted horizontal and vertical lines leapt from the canvas to his studio’s walls and ceiling. On the evidence of this exhibition, it was a breakthrough moment. The artist cites Caspar David Friedrich’s painting The Wanderer as a current influence, specifically the tiny bands of horizontal color composing its misty landscape. Indeed, while Evans has moved successfully into making installations, he remains a painter, breaking the world down into bands—or pixels—of color.
But the exhibition was also an exercise in making work about making work, using materials that typically remain behind the scenes. In this sense, Evans has invited us to step inside his practice: we saw the books he reads (by Danto and Judd; on Picasso and Turner), the tape he has used to block off sections of paintings, and the press releases that form part of the world he moves through. Notably, in comparison to other artists who have rendered their practice transparent, there is no sense of struggle, isolation or anxiety. Instead, Evans’s vision of artmaking projects a chaotic, obsessive, freewheeling pursuit that is decidedly, and contagiously, joyful.
Photo: Franklin Evans: turningtime, 2009, mixed mediums on wall, 100 by 80 inches; at Sue Scott.