Nashville Sign - Artist of the Week
nFocus - State of the Art: Abstract Expressions by Laura Huston Hunter
Wall Street Journal - Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century, Review: Trying to Corral the Uncorralable by Peter Plagens
(PDF available via Petzel Gallery):
New American Paintings, Issue #136
Burnaway - Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century by Joe Nolan
Nashville Scene - Best of 2018, Art MVP
Nashville Scene - Crawl Space 2018
Art Fight Podcast with Joe Nolan and Brian Siskind
WXNA FM with Laura Hutson, Artist Talk:
Nashville Scene - Chaos and Awe Ushers in a New Era at the Frist
Nashville Scene - Crawl Space
Nashville Arts - Building Empathy and Connection, Chaos and Awe at the Frist Museum
Native - James Perrin’s Heterogeneity Opening at Tinney Contemporary
StyleBlueprint - Southern Artist Spotlight
Locate Arts - The Focus, Studio visit: James Perrin
Native - Artist Spotlight
Art Daily - Abstractometry
Nashville Scene - Studio Visit
Nashville Scene - Pick of the Day - Scientists and Artists Picture the Intangible 2011
Nashville Scene - Pick of the Day - Works by James Perrin at Zeitgeist by Joe Nolan 2010
Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century
Artnet - Top 28 Exhibitions in Spring of 2018:
Franz Ackermann, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ghada Amer, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Radcliffe Bailey, Ali Banisadr, Matti Braun, Dean Byington, Anoka Faruqee, Barnaby Furnas, Ellen Gallagher, Adrian Ghenie, Wayne Gonzales, Wade Guyton, Rokni Haerizadeh, Peter Halley, Guillermo Kuitca, Heather Gwen Martin, Jiha Moon, Wangechi Mutu, James Perrin, Neo Rauch, Matthew Ritchie, Barbara Takenaga, Dannielle Tegeder, Kazuki Umezawa, Charline von Heyl, Corinne Wasmuht, Sue Williams
About the curator
Organized by Mark Scala, chief curator, Chaos and Awe follows a series of exhibitions on the subject of the human body in contemporary art: Paint Made Flesh, a consideration of post–World War II paintings in Europe and the United States (including works by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville, and others); Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, which linked the impulse to create composite bodies in myth and folklore to recent developments in science, such as genetic hybridization and prosthetics (including works by David Altmejd, Patricia Piccinini, Kiki Smith, and others); and Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art, featuring artists who represent longing, loss, and the desire for transcendence through the image of the shadow, mask, and imprint (including works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Christian Boltanski, Ana Mendieta, Shirin Neshat, and others). In Chaos and Awe, the preceding exhibitions’ considerations of biological instability extend outward to invoke the collective mind and body of the culture.
By Melinda Baker
Like a storm front, James Perrin’s chaotic, densely textured canvases crackle with energy. The acclaimed Nashville artist deftly blends several modes of painting, including abstraction, realism and expressionism, and incorporates a vast array of imagery into his work, from CT scans and segments of classic paintings to photographs of retail spaces and his own personal life; it is a practice that enshrines the history of painting while also summoning its future, a medium he piously affirms is a primordial form of visual communication uniquely capable of articulating what it feels like to be human.
Perrin spoke with The Tennessean about his work and current exhibition, “Heterogeneity,” on view at Tinney Contemporary through June 30. An opening reception for the artist will be held 6-9 p.m. June 2. Perrin’s work also will be included in the Frist Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, “Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century,” opening June 22.
What inspired you to become a painter?
I’ve been painting since a fairly young age. My aunt was an artist who worked in oils and started giving me lessons when I was about 6 or 7 years old. Painting just feels like an instinctive form of communication and expression to me. Various forms of drawing, and possibly carving, are also instinctive, but painting can be much more visually complex. I find it fascinating that images made by humans in caves over 30,000 years ago can still resonate with us so deeply.
What do you believe is integral to the work of a painter?
A painter should constantly push to develop as an artist and stretch the medium to form an original expression unique and singular to the artist. In other words, a painter should strive to not be stationary in vision. I follow my instincts more than specific ideas or agendas and believe the best way to assimilate all the information around us and react to it through painting is to allow the process to be intuitive and focused on its formal elements.
James Perrin, "A Summation of Apperceptions," oil on linen with acrylic resin, plant resin, and paint scraps, 72x64." (Photo: Courtesy of Tinney Contemporary)
What is one of your favorite paintings?
This is a difficult question because I am fascinated by the work of so many different artists. I love Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter. Historically, I’ve loved the Italian Renaissance painters, like Giotto, Masaccio and Fra Angelico because of the hard structure and religiosity of the paintings. I recently went to Madrid for the first time and saw work by El Greco, Goya and Velasquez, who have always been an inspiration to me.
Recently, I’ve been more drawn to Impressionism for the lightness of content, simplicity of subject and the intuitive handling of the formal elements of image formation. I’ve always loved Van Gogh and Francis Bacon. I tend to be attracted to painters whose paintings contain a range of human expressions and emotions along with technical originality.
How is the physicality of paint integral to your work?
I enjoy building up the surface of the painting to the point where the surface becomes an object in and of itself. I enjoy taking a piece of dried paint, an object with its own characteristics, and using it as a mark to describe space as much as the surface of the painting. So instead of always controlling the paint to manipulate an illusion, an actual paint object sitting on the surface of the painting adds a whole other dimension.
Tell me about “Heterogeneity.”
The title alludes to the various influences, techniques and functions of the paintings, which are objects of beauty or sublimity and emotional expressions. It also alludes to the world in which we live, one that is postindustrial, postdigital and multicultural. The work embodies the reality of living in an environment that is constantly in a state of conflict, in a continual state of decay and renewal, entropy and regeneration.
What impact do you hope your work has on viewers?
Anything but apathy. I love seeing a range of reactions to my work. Sometimes people are repulsed and sometimes they are drawn to the work. I enjoy both reactions. More than anything, I’d like people to walk away feeling hopeful, like they saw something sublime or even beautiful.
Nashville Arts Magazine
James Perrin: Painting In The Post-Digital Age
by Audrey Molloy
Contemporary art is increasingly consumed as part of an accelerated infosphere, intensified by semiotic and visual stimulation. In the art infosphere, material interactions are ubiquitously two-dimensional, transpiring within the constraints of a quarter-inch of an illuminated glass screen. Artworks, photographs, signs, and symbols collide in a luminous infinite scroll, boundlessly reproducible—shared—in ever-flattening digital formats. We discover and experience artworks and artists online, but are often unable to interact with their physical presence. In this space, artworks are implicated as visual fiction, incorporeal. So too, bodies and intellectual exchanges often take the form of digital artifacts.
It has been the purview of artists, curators, and institutional entities in recent years to try and situate the narrative of contemporary art in an atemporal world. Yet, there is no specific style or ideology for art practices post-Internet, where all eras and influences exist concurrently. Contemporary artists are free to sample, adopt, and reanimate a confluence of traditional and emergent aesthetic concerns based on the availability of visual information. This dissolute convergence of styles, genres, and origins could itself be the unifying thematic of our contemporary moment.
For contemporary painting, the post-digital landscape—where the relationship of humans to digital technologies and art forms rapidly evolves—is rife with self-consciousness. Painting is a medium specifically concerned with vision and touch to relay what it’s like to have an individual mind, a singular body, but these symbolic values are disarmed by digital culture. A contemporary visual experience of painting is preceded by its status as a photographic document viewed online—that is to say, a viewer’s initial interaction with painting is increasingly mediated by its reproduction as a photographic image or high-resolution scan. Our recognition of contemporary painting’s materiality and origin is sublated with photography’s post-digital authenticity.
I am thinking of a studio visit I had with Nashville-based artist James Perrin. In conversation regarding relative newness in painting, and the direction of his current practice, he jested, “Hasn’t everything been done before?”
And yet, despite the casualness of such a quip, Perrin’s remark vis-à-vis contemporary painting’s ability for novelty is an observation that clarifies the responsiveness of painting to post-digital culture, not its imminent death. It is a fact that painting, as a deeply historic practice, insists on remaining relevant. However, as Perrin’s own work demonstrates, contemporary painting in the post-digital age is unburdened by linear tradition and free to investigate an aggregate of visual and conceptual references—its practitioners are consciously resolved that there can be no substantial newness in painting. This is its strength.
Divide (2017) is a painting by James Perrin currently showing in the artist’s solo exhibition, Heterogeneity, at Tinney Contemporary. It is a formidable work which, upon further consideration, also functions as sort of indexical panorama for painting in the post-digital. Spanning nearly thirteen feet, and comprised of two large square canvases with a thin panel between, the piece is a grand gesture to the formal rigour and history of lyrical abstract painting, but also contains much of the imagery, formal mark-making, and high- contrast range that Perrin has investigated across his oeuvre. A gash of red impasto diagonally bridges the three grey fields, acting as kind of a visual referent that points to the paint chips, glowing suns, pools of water, digital ripples, and graphic pastel lines suspended across its surface. It is an amalgam of artifacts, motifs, and sections of paint mined from Perrin’s own paintings.
Perrin’s practice, though aesthetically referential to the energetic gestures and non-representational forms of abstract-expressionism, are a physical culmination of digital and painterly compositing. His is a practice cognizant of painting’s material hybridization—its constant vacillation between digital and physical spaces, as a jpeg, a print, a scan—and the repetitive visual possibilities of painting through formal inquiry and digital manipulation. Employing Photoshop to pre-visualize his works, Perrin uses the digital editing software to mask, collage, and multiply photographic material and sections of his own paintings in a complex series of layers. These digital compositions serve as a type of map from which the artist produces his works. Observed from a distance, these inter-dimensional paintings indeed appear to be digital in nature.
Seen most readily in A Last Moment (2017) and Removing the Demon From the Rock (2018), two high- contrast expressionist panels included in the exhibition, Perrin borrows the visual language and strategies incurred from a digital editing space. Enshrouded in dense backgrounds of black, exact filaments of white and pale pink intersect graphically with atmospheric gradients of varying transparencies. Opaque sections of matte paint are masked and layered by gestural cavities of rendered images—forms which float indeterminately between the dark background and tactile paint-chip surface.
The structural use of paint chips on the surface of the painting is a material investigation the artist initially employed in his Walmart Studies (2012) as a topographic overlay on realist paintings of commercial interiors. His recurrent inquiry into the dimensionality of paint denotes a heightened formal awareness of the flatness of the picture plane. Here, barnacles of impasto protrude sculpturally outward from the canvases in an overt testament to the physical body of paint. Invariably, the intense working of the canvas by Perrin in these newer works has eschewed the poetic significance that the frenetic accumulations of paint and gesture previously served. Where the highly charged environs of the Walmart Studies inferred symbolic meaning onto the intense aggregate of paint, Perrin’s studied use of paint-palette materials and digital artifacts has positioned these works as evidence for a medium intent on positing form over function.
In his review of “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World” at the Museum of Modern Art in 2013, David Salle writes, “Most if not all art reaches backward to earlier models in some way; every rupture is also a continuity. The ‘reaching back’ might be to unexpected sources, but imprints of earlier achievements are what give art its gristle and grit. What’s different is the mode of seeing.”
Perrin’s conflation of digital process with painterly technique is an insouciant insistence on the hybridity of contemporary painting which pervades the works in Heterogeneity at Tinney Contemporary. A Second Measure of Time (2018) is visually divided by both approaches. On the right side of the canvas, Perrin reiterates his fractured motif of reflective water, alluding to painting’s tradition of representational space— the canvas as a window—through the inclusion of a horizon line. A buoyant gradient of orange emanates from the center of the canvas—a near photographic depiction of a setting sun which is partially masked by a cacophony of painterly strategies on the left. Paint scrapings, expressive mark-making, carefully rendered forms, graphic lines, and swaths of daubed paint, as seen elsewhere in the show, intersect in a complex series of layers that recall Perrin’s process.
Significantly, Perrin’s work disrupts the symbolism so often attributed to the human conscious in painting by sharing the creative process with technological means—editing software, photographs, high-resolution scans. In this manner, Perrin simultaneously denies the material surface of the canvas and deftly points to it. It is a paradoxical push and pull between technical tradition and contemporary abstraction that underscores the timeliness of these works in current culture. Perrin exemplifies the boundless reproducibility and repetition of visual content in our post-digital infosphere, unbound by style, genre, strategies, or time, a space of constant referral.
by M. Kelly
Dynamic and demanding, the large canvases on view in James Perrin’s Observations, Integrations, Pareidolia, and Polysemy have a presence and energy that fill the front room of Tinney Contemporary. Perrin engages a visual vocabulary that manages to evoke elements of futuristic singularity while still deeply rooted in art history traditions and aesthetics, making the works feel closely familiar and yet omnipotently alien.
At their most fundamental, the paintings explore formalist concepts of paint as language, deconstructing representation through a process of pushing, pulling, shredding, and stacking. His canvases become massive cathedrals of paint: elevating the appearance of airy, intuitive line amid a chaos of light, but structurally undergirded with studied intent and deliberate accumulations of material.
Not to be missed are Perrin’s Walmart Studies, a series of smaller paintings whose clean frames and intimate scale are a dramatic juxtaposition to his larger canvases. Perrin’s dedication to the physicality of paint continues in layers of heavily clumped paint—debris scraped from his palettes—on top of recognizable retail interiors painted from photographs taken in Walmart stores. The accumulation creates a sense of chronological as well as chromatic density. The surface reads as different moments of time simultaneously expressed on a single surface, giving the otherwise static, universally sterile scenes of Walmart a sense of frenetic motion and turmoil.
Nashville Arts Magazine - Present Tense
by Joe Nolan
James Perrin isn’t new to Nashville, but if this is the first you’ve heard of the painter, you’re sure to be hearing a whole lot more. Perrin recently showed an impressive exhibition of his latest work at 40AU. He handpicked the venue for September’s First Saturday opening, and the perfect marriage between the work and the space spoke volumes about how well Perrin understands his canvases. Almost simultaneously, Perrin had his first museum-level show when a handful of his works opened at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts as part of their Abstractometry exhibit, which runs through February 2, 2014.
Perrin may well be Nashville’s art scene’s man of the moment, but his work is anything but trendy. Perrin combines figures, realism, and abstraction with an intense, everything-all-at-once sensibility that hides its debts to the history of painting in plain sight. Perrin’s recent success and exposure show that he’s an artist that knows where he’s going, but, more important, he’s also an artist who knows what’s come before.
Considering Perrin’s earlier work—and his earlier influences—I keep returning to the painting Expulsion from the Garden. Many of Perrin’s past and current paintings include glowing white curls of paint issuing tiny whip-like lines. Usually these are used as expressive motifs that often tie the background and foreground of a work together. In Expulsion, looping arcs of the stuff careen across the surface of the painting, practically becoming its subject. Above the lightning-colored swirls, a distorted cow skull pops in and out of view. Perrin often abstracts images using photo software before painting the results into his scenes. I doubt that Perrin has been compared to Georgia O’Keeffe very often, but I get the feeling that—sans the distortion—the bones would look a lot like one of O’Keeffe’s horse heads. Add to that the desert-like feel of many of Perrin’s background landscapes, and this idea is a compelling one. However, the distorted skull may ultimately owe more to Holbein the Younger’s The Ambassadors than O’Keeffe’s flower-festooned skulls.
Beneath the skull, a figure or figures are almost completely obscured by Perrin’s energized lines. Outlines form the figures of a man and what may be a woman. These are the Biblical Adam and Eve being forced from their garden—the swirling white lines are revealed to be the flaming sword of the cherubim that guard the Tree of Life.
However, Perrin’s title has as much to do with art as it does the Bible. Turns on the phrase “expulsion from the Garden of Eden” are common titles for paintings of the end of paradise—the famous fresco by Masaccio immediately leaps to mind. Though it may seem an odd comparison, for me Perrin’s take is much more like that of Peter Paul Rubens with his violent, grasping Death and shunning angel. Rubens’ swirling lines emphasize the terror of a scene that’s filled with grinding grimaces and desperate gestures. Perrin’s and Rubens’ images don’t really look alike, but their overall effects are strikingly similar.
At first glance, Perrin’s newest paintings seem to do away with figures entirely. However, closer inspection reveals that the artist’s recent shows represent a continuing evolution for the painter rather than a complete break.
Perrin’s latest large, abstract canvases are as purposefully busy as ever. In M3-9D13 Perrin lifts an angel from an old-master painting and manipulates it with photo software before painting that image onto his canvas in the midst of a wild cacophony of sparking, electrified colors. The overall effect of these larger pieces is intense to say the least, and gallery-goers at Perrin’s First Saturday opening insisted that the canvases were emitting buzzing and crackling sounds. Perrin’s largest canvas at the Frist show presents a figure abstracted into a star-like design that curator Mark Scala equates with a rethinking of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, embodying “the energy arising from the interaction between entropy and the gelling of new forms and ideas.”
Perrin’s new small canvases begin with scenes painted from photos the artist snapped at Walmart. Perrin’s aisles, shelves, bins, and shiny floors are engulfed in clouds of chromatic debris—literally scraps scraped from his paint palette. The surfaces here are almost impossibly painterly—the gooey gobs of color seem like they could slough off at any second. The noisy, chaotic fields call to mind a bomb exploding but make more sense as the literal representation of the detritus that swirls around our disposable consumer culture on its ecological and financial race to the bottom like the black cyclone that’s formed by filthy water as it runs—ever faster—straight down the drain.
Don’t expect Perrin and his intense, rooted paintings to go so easily.
Group Exhibition at the Frist Art Museum
by Mark Scala
Instead of syncing different mediums, James Perrin combines radically different painting techniques within each work. Many of his paintings feature sinuous lines and electrifying gestures woven together with images of humanity to suggest the elasticity of time, space, and consciousness. In MN-AD11-12 (2012, fig.7), chromatic brilliance and a dense layering of marks make it difficult to tell if it shows a human figure at its center, with arms and legs fully extended. This would not be like Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man (1460), asserting humankind as the measure of all things. Rather, it embodies the energy arising from the interaction between entropy (things falling apart) and the gelling of new forms and ideas.Fig. 7 Fig. 8
Perrin’s Walmart (2012, fig.8) paintings similarly cloak the mundane with mystery. Each image is formed of two distinct layers. The primary or under-layer contains palimpsistic glimpses of aisles, sales bins, and floors. Clusters of paint scrapings have been accumulated on the surfaces of these interior views, with a randomness that seems to defy the control of the artist’s hand. This detritus covers Walmart’s fixtures like volcanic debris or exploded consumer goods; the modern Pompeii bringing catastrophe onto itself."