Part of my art viewing routine is identical to many other art aficionados: 12 Thursdays a year, I partake in the ultimate tour-de-force of Portland's gallery offerings. I find myself part of a sea of viewers, flowing rhythmically through the Pearl District streets, digesting artist after artist, piece by piece.
After three solid hours of visual inundation, I find solace with viewing comrades at a favorite watering hole. There I begin sorting through the images imprinted on my brain, considering which are most lasting and why. The critical, albeit casual conversation over cocktails is usually quite helpful in sifting through my own ideas. However, elements of the June tour have challenged the success of this routine.
Days after viewing Tyler Hays' paintings at the Mark Woolley gallery my thoughts remain unclear. I am wondering why his paintings immediately grabbed my attention and refuse to let go. In his fourth exhibition at Mark Woolley, the New York artist presents a series of paintings on paper entitled Flipper Key Chain and Other Works. At first glance, Hays' work seems formally sparse. With a general reliance on a white-on-white aesthetic, he lays a subtle foundation of brush stroke texture, allowing only a slight, economic reference to color and minimal mark making.
In Plane, Hays utilizes a duo-tone white ground, creating a quiet horizon line. At the top of the image field, Hays paints a cluster of delicate, light-blue shapes, possibly infinity symbols. Staggering the area near the horizon are two brownish lines that are broken only by occasional smudges of pigment. The effect of these simple gestures is strangely provocative. Through relative ease, Hays creates an abstract landscape.
A powerful and interesting tension is created; the viewer is beckoned to draw conclusions based on his or her own mental tangents. The artist echoed these thoughts himself in a 1998 artist statement, "The meaning of the work lies in how the work moves you, what you might see yourself, even if it is nothing, because if art does exist, it is somewhere inside the observer or beyond, certainly not contained on canvas or paper." At this point in my consideration of Hays' work, I am realizing that it is not so important to have all of my questions answered, in fact I see it as preferable. However exactly he managed it, Hays has left an impression on me. Perhaps I'll return to Mark Woolley for another peek.