Paint is not innocent. The invention of the tube helped artists to find new impressions by working before landscapes. The invention of the spraycan, which puts paint under pressure, made it possible to paint directly onto the landscape, and to find new sensations; painting was confronted with the real, with grit, with architecture, with the streets, its blind alleys and forgotten corners. The painter’s actions and gestures became charged with the tension of the one-shot and the murmurs of the night.
Many painters see painting as a form of combat sports. A face-off with the medium, a confrontation with the materials, the colour (or lack thereof), the line. A combat, too, with the big shots of the past whose unrivalled masterpieces have laid paint out cold, though none should hesitate to roughhouse and disfigure their works. Paint comes in gradients, floats, is sometimes vaporous and Japanese-like with Ste?phane Calais, an artist who sees the world as a vast drawing and who is used to pushing the boundaries. With Antwan horfee, someone who has long put his painting and his ego above the rules, it is underground, explosive and working- class, full of air and authenticity. It illuminates with a fluorescent radiance the garbage, fruit and animals (cigarettes, toilet paper, watermelons, vicious sharks or Pink Flamingo) diluted and arranged with deceptive slapdash by Katherine Bernhardt. It is steeped in panache and virtuoso in Eddie Martinez’s post-graffiti deterioration of the CoBrA heritage. With Rene?e Le?vi, paint is the ghost of a hand ruled by the one-shot of the spraycan, unedited.
Together, these artists of different generations attest to the fact that, since the masterpieces of the Machiavellian Caravage to the black paintings of Kerry James Marshall, via the Etruscans’ sexual ones and the cholo graffiti that marks the Chicano territories and identities of Los Angeles, via the monikers whose words haunt freight trains and tell of hobo lives, or even Saeio’s impertinent hieroglyphics from ‘lo2la’ (the beyond), paint is a vagabond medium, in Jacob Holdt’s sense of the word, a photographer who captured in 1970 his vision of an America that lay between gangsters, drugs, whores and Klu Klux Clan: “a hitchhiker travels from A to B, whereas a vagabond moves in a third dimension—you roll with the punches.” In 2017, painters are not yet ready to be caged lions. / HV