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Photocopies Gone Astray in Shane Walsh's 'Xpressor'

Aug. 15, 2017
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Somewhere in your life there has been a dodgy photocopier, the one where the lines blur and there are always streaks in some odd spot. Maybe you played with it and flipped a page just as the scan was happening, just to see what would come out. So it is with the paintings by Shane Walsh at The Alice Wilds in Walker’s Point. 

The title of the exhibition is “Xpressor,” which sounds like a means of distillation. This is true for these pieces, done in 2016 and 2017. In black, white and variations of gray, Walsh runs his brush over canvas, translating impressions of misstepped photocopies into compositions that borrow techniques of sampling, remixing, paste-up and collage in a purely non-figurative manner. 

The strength of Walsh as an abstract painter, in this body of work as well as previous suites, is his eye for composition and nuance. The paintings, all untitled, are inspired by amalgamations of photocopies gone astray, but with an eye for wayward marks that become points of reference to the history of expressive abstract painting in the 20th century. These serve as anchors of context and familiarity, but they also are new, living in the present as monuments to something of analog surprise.

Walsh’s balance of precision and improvisation is admirable. The paintbrush may flourish with wide marks of abandon, yet knife-edge lines of decision are present as well. Throughout “Xpressor,” mercurial toner is replicated, where grays lie in varying density and black has its own shade of character. Walsh carries forth with a DIY spirit in the way that elements are abruptly cut, as though comprised of alternate papers with mistaken pages, brought together in a final cohesion through the artist’s orchestration. 

In the scope of this work, there is variation and evolution, from the smaller pieces on unprimed canvas to the later paintings on a large scale with grounds of glistening white. The subtext that is most striking is the synthesis between undying forms of replication, from the mechanics of the ordinary office machine to the centuries embodied by the painter’s art. 

Through Sept. 3 at The Alice Wilds, 900 S. Fifth St., Suite 102.


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