17 August 2015
PROVINCETOWN, MA — Down a tree-lined back alley off Provincetown’s bustling Commercial Street, Tim’s Used Books is an oasis; an escape from the crowds of vacationers and gawkers that descend upon the outer Cape during the summer months. Recently, Tim Barry has made space amidst the overflowing shelves of art books, paperbacks and rare editions to show work by contemporary artists, who break away from the ubiquitous harbor scenes and bayside sunsets that saturate the local scene.
The current show Just a Snootful curated by Brad Hajzak, includes approximately twenty small paintings and paint sketches in intimate scale by Ted Gahl and Katherine Bradford. These playful works share in common an oddball sense of humor that compliments the offbeat exhibition space. Paintings are hung in an unorthodox manner, just below or above eye level, adding to the general peculiarity of the show. Moreover the slanted floors, exposed beams, and electrical boxes interrupt any open wall space. The artworks themselves and the way in which they are positioned reinforce the anti “white cube” exhibition space. A certain harmony is, however, achieved through the consistency of discordance.
Ted Gahl (b. 1983) paintings present a string of ideas as opposed to one unifying theme. Gahl’s subject matter ranges from childhood memories, to literary references (Mark Twain) and historical art interpretations. Intermittent text and characters relay funny anecdotes that provide clues to what we are looking at. Figures meanwhile, are disguised though fractured planes of color and pattern. There is a joke lurking somewhere, but perhaps only the artist knows the punch line. Katherine Bradford (b. 1942) pieces are more confrontational. Her subjects reside front and center in each composition. Representations of Superman and other recognizable silhouettes are lost in space, the environment suggested by vague atmospheric tones or bright bands of color. Both artists’ works have a dreamy, child-like sensibility. The paintings hold an eerie quality, suggesting a distant memory, where one element stands out and the rest remains a blur.
In the context of the idiosyncratic used bookstore setting, visitors to this show can appreciate a similar vintage and worn appeal in the artworks on view. Bradford’s superman images, steamships, and boxers are among the most recognizable elements of nostalgia. The aged quality of Gahl’s work comes from the artist’s scumbled brush, faded palette and by his references to older painting traditions. One has the impression that searching through the stacks of books flanking the entrance to this show might reveal a direct reference for each painting displayed.
images provided by Tim’s Used Books and Anna Hoberman, 2015.