Since the ‘90s, Brian Calvin has developed a body of highly stylized flattened paintings, rendering his figures in light-soaked portraits that retain a lifelike quality. His work’s defining characteristic is the figures’ temporal pauses, each one seems to be suspended in action. Calvin’s recent work has moved away from revealing his subjects’ whole faces and instead highlights individual features.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: Almine Rech Gallery Archive
Brian Calvin presents his solo exhibition “States” at Almine Rech Gallery in Brussels. Calvin has over the last few years concentrated on painting isolated heads and faces. He has activated and intensified certain areas of the face while leaving others relatively calm. The focal point of intensity migrated from the eyes to the mouth. “I started isolating or focusing on the lips, as a way of altering the context of the faces. When the viewer is confronted with Lisp or Eternal Lips, it changes the reception of the faces”. Brian Calvin, who has been likened to Alex Katz and David Hockney due to their shared tendency to work with an idiosyncratic style. Calvin’s stylised figures are all arms and legs, bug-eyed and long-necked characters who are often seen framed in unusual crops that extend the sense of languor. Limbs seem to stretch with the endless sunny days, the air seems hot and still, almost stultifying, and it’s as if everyone involved is waiting for something to happen. Eyelids are heavy under rainbows of eye shadow, irises sparkle and bounce back sky-blue, turquoise or sun-yellow reflections. It’s the mouths though, the glossy lips, inviting and longing, slightly split open and revealing beguiling gapped-teeth, or an orange, oblong-shaped tongue, that are the most arresting in these new works. They seem to address the viewer, demanding his or her attention, requesting an immediate sensory response. The flattened matte palette employed by the Los Angeles-based artist only serves to intensify a faintly mysterious air to proceedings. Brian Calvin’s painted world is familiar because it speaks to different generations at the same time. It’s also possible to relate to another mindset and have lo-fi music sounds guiding you through his works.
Info: Almine Rech Gallery, Abdijstraat 20 Rue de l’Abbaye, Brussels, Duration: 19/4-27/5/17, Tue-Sat 11:00-19:00, www.alminerech.com