Josh Reames’s artwork tries hard not to be art. You walk into his show Tripper at Circuit 12, and you get the first of his dismantling jokes. Four shelves, each lined with colored, plastic rimmed sunglasses, arrayed like stripes and brandished with the artist’s signature. Even the tenuous attempts to justify these objects’ place in a gallery — the tongue-in-cheek commodification, the fumbling associations to color field painters or Martin Creed instructables – seem to come up short.
In the main gallery, paintings and installations hardly lend more gravity. On one side of the gallery, Reames has painted a wall green, and he hangs white window blinds sprayed with a psychedelic smear of purple and pink. On the other side, a series of scribbled paintings, each squirted with bright blurs of color and marked with swirls of black lines, lattice grids, or kitschy emblems. In one, a green outline of a cactus rendered in thick paint sits against a field of similar cactus sketches, arranged about the canvas like a Hawaiian shirt. In another, cartoonish palm trees that look snipped from the background of the 1980s arcade game Jungle Hunt are scattered about the canvas. Another recurring motif is folded paper, painted creased sheets which look like flattened out paper airplanes. If the tropical themes put you in the mood, stop off at the ice cream machine in the center of the room and serve yourself a cone. And if you start to feel like all this lackadaisical, goofiness is part of one big joke, the hastily spray painted smiley faces on the stockade fence towards the back of the gallery are there to laugh right along with you.
Reames is an artist in his 20s who graduated from UNT, earned his MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and now dwells in that frigid lakeside metropolis. On the night of the opening, he looked not unlike Luke Wilson’s Richie Tenenbaum, with a thin beard, a headband pressing down his stringy, long hair, and a button down shirt covered with imprints of palm trees. His work shares this beach-y quality, warming thoughts, perhaps, when painting through a Chicago winter. But there is direction to the tune in, turn out attitude and the Jimmy Buffet kitsch. In the playfulness of the work, you can almost smell the influence of Chicago artists like Jim Nutt or other painters like Peter Saul. Spend time with the work and you begin to notice its surreal, psychedelic quality. The paint on the blinds seems to sit in a space between your eye and the plastic surface; objects in the paintings recede into the canvas like cartoonish hallucinations. Some of the blurs of color cull associations with images zoomed in tight in Photoshop or the digital brick walls in the classic video game Wolfenstein 3D. The blown-up re-rendering of the seemingly digital texture reminded me of the way artist Richard Patterson plays with scale, greatly enlarging photos while preserving in paint the distortions of photographic representation.
Reames is playing with photography, representation, and imagery, and the swipes from the internet or video games are part of an investigation you might call “epistemological kitsch.” This is landscape painting, only the vistas are built from the debris of digital cultures, aligning painterly tradition with a more common and contemporary field of experience. When you look at images of the work online, you hardly get an appreciation for the tromp d’loeil layering that provides much of its energy. It’s an old modernist trick, paintings that sit around and ponder their own flatness. And yet what I found most interesting about the work was its noncommittal nature. The work is flush with slacker personality and preoccupied with trying to figure out how to be real art while still having good fun. Self-serious concerns don’t bog it down, even if, as with modernism, this is painting that is trying to find a way out of itself.
This self-foiling pushes Reames a little too far at times. The ice cream machine feels too much like a trendy, relational aesthetics-y tag on. But Reames wiggles out of any such limitations with his off handedness. If you want to take this work as a serious exploration of painting, or an investigation of experience, that’s fine. If you equate it to the trendy shop window commodity suggested by the sunglasses, that’s okay too. But whatever you do, just relax and remember, it’s only art.
Here are this week’s openings and events:
Visiting Artist Lecture: Alejandro Cesarco at SMU Meadows School of the Arts — September 11: 7 p.m. 6101 Bishop, Dallas, Texas 75275.
Gallery Lab and Book Signing with Artist Richard Patterson at the Nasher Sculpture Center — September 12: 7 p.m. 2001 Flora Street, Dallas, Texas 75201.
“FORGING IDENTITY, CREATING LOCAL ART” by Celia Álvarez Muñoz, Sal Barron, Juan Manuel Campos, Filberto Chapa, Jesus Chairez, Adriana Cobo-Frenkel, Pablo Esparza, Lilia Estrada, Eliseo Garcia, María Teresa García-Pedroche, John Hernández, Juan Hernández, Benito Huerta, Leticia Huerta, Diana Marquis, Manuel Mauricio, Vincent Morin, Roberto Munguia, Jesús Moroles, Samuel Torres and José Vargas, at the Latino Cultural Center – September 12: 6-8 p.m. 2600 Live Oak, Dallas, Tx 75204.
“Stand and Deliver: Visual Fine Art Faculty Exhibition” by Barbara Armstrong, Anne Chrietzberg, Randall Garrett, Omar Hernandez, Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, Eddy Rawlinson, Carlos DonJuan, Jill Foltz, Matthew Guest, Chaitra Linehan, DeAnna Ooley, Irby Pace, Adam Palmer, Amin Tejani, Paige Praiter, Andy Myers, Robert Caslin, and Teresa Gomez Martorell, at the H. Paxton Moore Fine Art Gallery at El Centro College - September 12: 4-6 p.m. 801 Main Street, Dallas, Tx 75202.
“Inside Out” by Melanie Levin, at the University Of Texas at Dallas – September 13: 6:30-8:30 p.m. 800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, Tx 75080.
“Collective Bargaining” by HOMECOMING!, S.C.A.B., The Ghost Town Arts Collective, Sour Grapes, IN COOPERATION WITH MUSCLE NATION, Art Beef, The Junior Ward, and SOLVENT, at the University of Texas at Dallas – September 13: 6:30-8:30 p.m. 800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, Tx 75080.
David Graeve Offsite Performances at various locations but beginning and ending at the McKinney Ave. Contemporary — September 13: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. 3120 McKinney Avenue, Dallas Tx 75204.
“Fall Fanfare”, a group show featuring the Associates of the Artists’ Showplace Gallery - September 13: 6-9 p.m. 15615 Coit Road, Suite 230, Dallas, Tx 75248.
CADD Art Bus Tour: 500x, Maxwell Studio, Bowman Glass Sudio, and PDNB Gallery — September 14: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Anatomy of Social Sculpture: Rick Lowe’s Vickery Meadow’s ‘Trans.lation Market” Installation PoPUp! — September 14, 15 1-5 p.m. at 833 Exposition Ave., Dallas Tx 75226.
“Made in Oak Cliff” by George Green, Jack Mims, Jim Roche, Bob Wade and Mac Whitney, at Gray Matters Gallery – September 14 : 6-9 p.m. 113 N. Haskell Avenue, Dallas, Tx 75226.
Asteroid of Trash Blocking Transmissions of Love / The Art Foundation for the Texas Biennial 2013 at The Reading Room – September 14: 7 p.m. 3715 Parry Ave, Dallas, Texas 75226.
“Incre-mental” by Linnea Glatt, at the Barry Whistler Gallery - September 14: 6-8 p.m. 2909-B Canton Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“Terra Incognita” by William Binnie, at The Public Trust - September 14: 6-9 p.m. 2919-C Commerce Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“Some New Paintings” by Susie Rosmarin, and “Within & Beyond” by Jonathan Borofsky, Sophie Calle, Vija Celmins, Richard Diebenkorn, Frank Gehry, Philip Guston, Ann Hamilton, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, and Frank Stella, at the Talley Dunn Gallery - September 14: 6-8 p.m. 5020 Tracy Street, Dallas, Tx 75205.
“The Conscious Collective” by Eva Montealegre, David Carmichael, Ross Von Rosenburg, Taylor Jennings, Joshua David Noyes, Jerod Alexander Davies, Gina Garza, Frank Cavanagh, Michael Malher, Lucas Novaes and Carlos Perez, at W.A.A.S. Gallery - September 14 : 7-10 p.m. 2722 Logan Street, Dallas, Tx 75215.
“Re-envisioning The Sublime” by Waddy Armstrong, at the Liliana Bloch Gallery – September 14: 6-9 p.m. 2919 Commerce Street, Suite C, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“Confidence in Exploration” by Doug Davis and Gregory Haley, at D-Squared Studios – September 14: 6:30-11 p.m. 4312 Elm Street, Dallas, Tx 75226.
“Start Smart Art Auction” at the Gallery At Midtown – September 14: 6-10 p.m. Valley View Mall, 13331 Preston Road, Dallas, Tx 75240.
“Sight-Specific” by Lilian Garcia-Roig, “Social Memory #3, Conversation With Sophie, Target MAC Drawing” by David Graeve, and “Waning” by Tony Orrico, at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary – September 14: 5-8 p.m. 3120 McKinney Avenue, Dallas Tx 75204.
“Armas Desnudas” by Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, at Mighty Fine Arts – September 14: 6-9 p.m. 409 A North Tyler, Dallas, Tx 75208.
“Inside and Out” by Ray-Mel Cornelious, at the Norwood Flynn Gallery - September 14: 6-8 p.m. 3318 Shorecrest Drive, Dallas, Tx 75235.
Amarillo Entropy at The Power Station — September 15: 12-5 p.m. 3816 Commerce Street, Dallas, Texas 75226
Photo: Installation shot of Josh Reames at Circuit 12