Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Big Show 2011, part 1--Retina Burn

Lawndale's The Big Show is always difficult to write about. It is, inevitably, a visual cacophony. There are 121 artworks in the show by 73 artists. It is impossible for a show like this to coalesce into unified whole. (That's always one of the complaints about the Whitney Biennial.)  The Big Show is always diffuse--the only thing one can say from year to year is that its diffusion takes a particular form (even if that form is complete randomness). This year, it's not random. The show is spinning on an axis and throwing off bits that are far from the axis, but the axis itself is pretty identifiable. The Big Show 2011 pays a lot of attention to large, colorful painting. So how could this happen given the diversity of work submitted? There is a selection of art to choose from (self-selected by the participating artists) and then a curatorial selection from this group. The curator can pick a certain direction, but she is limited by what pieces have been submitted. Given some of the shows curator Larissa Harris has curated at Queens, I don't see a predilection for paintings or bright colors, although she does seem to like "big." So one has to conclude that this year, Houston's paint-slingers submitted a lot of work.

John Earles, Everything We Know Traced in Lines of Lipstick and Fiber Optics, acrylic on canvas, 2011

John Earles has two large colorful paintings in the show, including the 12-feet-wide Everything We Know Traced in Lines of Lipstick and Fiber Optics. That work has a bit of a James Rosenquist vibe to it.