One Picture Show: Shane Guffogg

A selection of works on paper…

And one BIG painting.

February 2021

Presented by GROSSART


SPACE 1028 | 1028 North Western Avenue – Los Angeles, CA 90029

GROSS ART is pleased to present One Picture Show: Shane Guffogg, a selection of works on paper and one BIG painting.

Shane Guffogg is an artist who never shied away from going big. In this exhibition, One Picture Show, we explore the little steps that take you to that big leap. The planning, practice, and calm that allows Guffogg to stand in front of a monumental canvas (that he likely stretched himself), let go, empty his mind, and just paint. Curated as one small survey centered around one big painting, included you will find works on paper from 1991 to 2020, culminating in a climactic seven by nine foot canvas from his ongoing Stillpoint series.

But first a note regarding the exhibition’s title. The global pandemic has had us all reach to something for comfort at some point over the past year. Relief came in many different guises, but catching up on my film list seemed to be a regular go-to for me. After watching Peter Bogdanovich’s breakthrough film, The Last Picture Show (1971), the poetry of the title stuck with me. The effort it takes to make one big painting is monumental – this is work that must be celebrated. These exhibitions are envisioned as an occasional series to explore these moments.

The earliest works included in the exhibition are, frankly, revelatory. The three watercolors from 1991 show a facility with the medium and composition that belies a great talent. The palette chosen and the manner in which the color is blocked out suggest an affinity for Cezanne’s many paintings of Mont Saint-Victoire. But Guffogg’s works are primarily abstract, breaking from Cezanne’s landscapes. The only reference to a real-world object is the ribbon that undulates on and over the surfaces. The very same ribbon that would come to inspire many of Guffogg’s most impactful later works.

Chronologically, the next works are from his Crossings, Evidence, and Untitled (calligraphy) series. These too point to new directions Guffogg would explore. The Untitled (calligraphy) series finds Guffogg linking his conscious gesture of rendering a ribbon to the more fluid gestures associated with calligraphy. (I’m certain his friend Paul Ruscha’s prolific use of calligraphy served to inspire as well.) In Evidence the essence of two impressive sheets of a substantial hand-made Japanese paper are celebrated by having their “history” seemingly embedded into their surfaces. Here, Guffogg’s fascination with materials shine through as he layers, gestures, and rubs pigments and oil sticks into and onto the variegated surfaces. But it is his Crossings series, started that same year, where these gestures, pigments, and ideas coalesce:

“Beginning in 2001, I would start each day by entering my studio … and walk around the room, saying everything that was on my mind out loud until I didn’t have anything else to say. Then I would lay out a piece of paper, sometimes 2 or 3, and begin working.

The first mark was without forethought. It was spontaneous … Chance always seems to be a factor in life and it played an equal role in these watercolors … Thought became action and action became chance … My intentions for the Crossings series were for the watercolors to be a record of a moment ...” – Guffogg, 2011

The inclusion of four modestly scaled Crossings (#s 9, 15, 77 and 113) attest to the importance of these works. This idea of making marks “without forethought… thoughts became action and action became chance…” would soon loom large in Guffogg’s practice.

The early aughts had Guffogg moving from color to revisit how light emerges from darkness. Considering his deep love and study of Leonardo da Vinci’s work, one can only surmise Guffogg was at least partly influenced by Leonardo’s practice of blocking out large areas of dark in order to have the lightness of his subjects emerge. (This is most apparent in Leonardo’s early and unfinished Adoration of the Magi (1481).) In these works from 2003-04, Guffogg floods sheets of white paper with black pigment only to go back in with bleach to literally remove the pigment from that darker background. The effect is haunting, with the iron in the black pigment reacting at times with the bleach to create an otherworldly sepia-like effect.

By 2009, Guffogg had harnessed all his lessons learned over the period and manifested them in his Lumen Lapsus series (trans. Falling Light). In these works the unconscious gesture starts the process, with the fugitive material of pastel being used to explore the flat surface of these sheets.

2016 found Guffogg in Murano (Venice), Italy, to develop a new body of work in glass. Guffogg, an unstoppable creative force, was not content to watch others create while he supervised, so during his breaks from the glass foundry he would use 9 x 7 inch sheets of watercolor paper to create hypnotically beautiful renderings of Venice’s famous light reflecting off the undulating surface of the canals. They are mesmerizing.

But all this leads us to our one picture: At the Still Point of the Turning World (Only Through Time is Time Conquered). This series was inspired by T.S. Eliot’s epic poem, Four Quartets (1943), where this idea of a stillpoint… The Stillpoint was first introduced to Guffogg. In fact, it was this couplet that inspired this next body of work:

At the Still Point of the Turning World, Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is. – T.S. Eliot

Standing in front of a seven by nine foot canvas, one can only imagine the herculean effort of creativity it must take to empty your mind, silence the chatter, and trust in your talent and instinct to guide your hand. Again inspired by Leonardo’s extensive use of glazes (up to 40 in the Mona Lisa, for example), Guffogg takes this to another level with 80, 90, at times even 100 layers of glaze being employed to create a luminous effect in these works. And chance plays a role as well, with Guffogg laying down these initial lines unconsciously, but then working, reworking, and then reworking them again, these spontaneous lines are transformed from the fugitive to the concrete. Taking them from the realm of the unconscious to the conscious … from dark to light … to the Stillpoint.

The level of skill required to create a painting of this magnitude and at this scale is monumental. It is only fitting that GROSS ART at SPACE 1028 launches this first One Picture Show exhibition with this exceptional painting made by the singular talent that is Shane Guffogg.

Thank you.

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