Opening: Friday 15 September, 5–8pm
Exhibition continues until 9th October
George Byrne is meeting us on the corner between poetic formalism and arbitrary utility. You drove past here just yesterday but you missed the show. The cleaving cut by light. The story written in colour bleached by a distracted sun. The nothing much place. But this is actually an excavation of antique pleasures.
The austerity of composition and the tenderness of surface in Byrne’s photographs owes obvious debt to more recent minimal colourists such as Matisse and Kelly but he’s also talking to the 18th century. When Thomas Jones painted “A Wall in Naples” in 1782, the sky was also a flattened ribbon and the sunlight sculpted form into its abstract core entity. Kelly rarely painted “the scene” and radically and beautifully, he went off frame in search of stained and stateless things.
Lyric symmetry dwells in exactly these peripheries. That place that everyone seems to have just left to the forces of decay. And in that vacuum the eye steps back in. That witness to the unwatched moments. The impulse to carve composure from broken architecture and intimacy from faceless walls is older than Modernism. It’s actually as old as light.
Byrne came to Lose Angeles with a raw lens. The latitude is similar to Australia but the light is finer, it sugars the face of plaster and tin and it slices and arcs such distinct geometries. When Byrne lists his colours, he also names his materials, the cheap and hard materials of industry, utility and the Latino diaspora:
“The bright yellow stucco of drug stores throughout Southern California. The beautiful molded concrete shapes of urban foot paths. The fire engine red strips along all the pavements across LA. The canary yellow bollards that punctuate everything everywhere. The pink and blue awnings. The rich blue black shadows that drift cat and mouse across all the surfaces all day.”
There is no order to it. It is restructured by the painter, the writer or the photographer. It is coming back to nowhere with something in your hands. – Anna Johnson