A visit to Ivanhoe Village's Twelve21 Gallery this Friday will reveal signs of new life, as Brandon McLean's In Bloom opens in the gallery's newly renovated and recently expanded space.
McLean identifies himself as a mixed-media artist, and that's more apt a description than you might realize. His gallery shows generally consist of collaged found material: postcards, magazine and newspaper cuttings, old pictures blown up, silkscreened, manipulated with paint and wheat paste. But McLean's Tumblr, My Hungry Years (brandonmclean.tumblr.com), shows off his talent for the peculiarly 21st-century collage form of Tumblr curation, with its emotionally acute juxtaposition of digitalia; and a moving poem cycle found under “Writings” on his website, elus1v.com, proves the truth of his self-ID while unexpectedly pushing the boundary of that “mixed.”
As has been observed ad infinitum ad nauseam by art historians since the 1920s, collage is an art form particularly suited to modernity. That truism has only become truer as each decade's technological advances make the avalanche of visual information that surrounds us more easily reproducible. Often, though, bricolageurs claim to use their repurposed imagery to create overt social commentary. McLean's work isn't really about appropriating or recontextualizing the images he uses as raw material – he isn't trying to make a blown-up screenprint of Paul Newman into a symbol of anything else. Rather, the large canvases in this show are sunny, psychedelic paeans to good times and summer girls.
The smaller pieces (which recycle some of the images from McLean's Peyote Poems series) have a dustier, more stringent feeling than those exuberant explosions of color. The acid polychrome seen in the larger works is present here as well, but boxed in, contained. The textured swirls and blobs of neon paint, rather than setting the mood of each piece, function more as contrast or daydream-bubble juxtaposed with vintage cacti, insects, gnomic text fragments and dusty desert flora.
“For me it’s a leap back into instincts – following and creating with my guts, a reconnect with nature, mystery and my own spiritual wanderings,” says McLean. “Evidence of the human hand.”
On a recent visit to the gallery, Twelve21 co-owner Benjamin Collins revealed plans to add an online storefront to the gallery's website, launching simultaneously with McLean's June 1 opening reception. Works from In Bloom will be available, as will the last few pieces from Twelve21's previous show of Brice Stephens works. Collins hopes to expand the online offerings to include work from all artists who show or have shown at Twelve21.
(In Bloom hangs through June 22 at Twelve21 Gallery; the gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment.)
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