Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Searching Through the Eighties



Joe Fleming, Silver Harley (colour), 2019, enamel on polycarbonate with aluminum substrate, 36" x 28"
Joe Fleming
Silver Harley
June 13 - July 20, 2019
General Hardware Contemporary, Toronto

Over the past 20 years, Toronto-based Joe Fleming has carved out a career across Canada and internationally, especially in Singapore. Those following his painting over the long term may identify him as an abstract painter. 

However, his current exhibition merges abstraction with pop culture imagery and figuration. To do so, Fleming depends on layers and line, in particular clean black lines. This confident even brash outlining has a raw urban street art feel that doesn't seem forced or white cube gallery-filtered. While these paintings may recall street art at first blush, I see their direct lineage more in eighties painting, notably Ronnie Cutrone's pop culture collages and Stella's graffiti-rooted painted constructions. 

While Fleming is not the only artist to reference the not-so-long-ago overlooked eighties, his is not so much a nostalgia trajectory, but one progressing naturally from earlier work, which also stressed composition-defining drawing and collage, but via abstract painting. Consequently, Fleming exhibits an inquiring, self-searching sincerity that's too often lacking in the glut of figurative painting currently filling many galleries.

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