Alex Gardner’s Art Shows the Innocent Side of Humanity
BY: KYLE FITZPATRICK | IMAGES COURTESY OF ALEX GARDNER
They look like they’re playing. There’s some sort of chemistry to the figures, indigo faced in pastel gym clothes, lunging in and out of each other in caught movement. Some chat, some think; some flirt, some stare. Others carry plants, offerings to each other, metaphors for growth and life set against Southern California sunset gradients.
These are the young lives Los Angeles-based artist Alex Gardner depicts in his paintings. The works show faceless people he has obsessed over for years, in vivid murals and inky drawings, and recently on display at his soon-to-close New York debut at The Hole. The show–titled the tense yet loving RomCom–features works who carry the weight of art mythology with modern ascetic aesthetics, crashing the two into each other like careless lovers.
Still, the work is all about projection, his forms offering themselves for interpretation, to be tried on as actors in his plays. Alex also shies away from literalness in these works via a beautiful blank facedness. This decision to shy from expressions like this is important because, to him, they “would give too much information about the type of emotions the figures are experiencing.” Instead, we infer from flopping mops and pointing fingers under the weight of titles like “How did overcooking the pasta lead to this” and “The ceiling fan was useless” what exactly is going on.
Try as we might to keep these works out of any context, it’s impossible to not zoom in on them as subtle comments on black experiences and excellence. These figures are to be everyone, sure, but they recall the sentiment of a song like Solange’s “F.U.B.U.” that these works are indeed universal yet they are “for us.” “Some shit you can’t touch,” she sings. His paintings sometimes exist in that echo. While we can place our bodies onto Alex’s, there is a part of these works that are unique, untouchable, a reward that only certain viewers will have revealed to them.
That’s the joy in Alex’s work: the multiplicity and specificity. An intentional openness with set limits. Of course, they just look cool too. Who doesn’t like a gradient? Understated activewear? Foreplay? That’s what we’re here for, these days.