SHANE TOLBERT (b. 1985, Corsicana, TX) currently lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Tolbert’s explorations are concerned with the process and materiality of painting, and the way images can be made by relying on chance, unorthodox materials, and gesture. Although his work builds on a premise of color field painting, the techniques Tolbert employs are far from traditional. He begins by thinning down acrylic paint which pools and flows on plastic sheeting. Once dry, the stains imprinted on the sheeting are applied to canvas using more wet paint as a binder. After allowing the plastic to dry on the canvas, Tolbert then removes it and what is left behind is the intact painted gesture, imprinted with the textural language of ripples and folds inherent to the plastic.

Tolbert’s recent work on found supports shows a growing consciousness of the ecological impact of his studio practice, but also a new interest in the signs of embedded meaning and history of discarded building material and refuse. The rough cuts, sun bleaching, drilled holes, and gear impressions on the face of honeycomb cardboard become integral part of the paintings’ formal language, as well as suggesting other, more inaccessible past lives of objects. The colors of the New Mexican high desert allude to Tolbert’s practice of walks and hikes, and his interest in geological time.

Tolbert explorations are concerned with the process and materiality of painting, and the way images can be made by relying on chance, unorthodox materials, and gesture. Although his work builds on a premise of color field painting, the technique Tolbert employs is far from traditional. He begins by thinning down acrylic paint which pools and flows on plastic sheeting. Once dry, the stains imprinted on the sheeting are applied to canvas using more wet paint as a binder. After allowing the plastic to dry on the canvas, Tolbert then removes it and what is left behind is the intact painted gesture, imprinted with the textural language of ripples and folds inherent to the plastic. 

In Tolbert's own words: Duct tape, baling wire, drip tape, corrugated metal sheeting, patching on busted pipes, mending of rotted fence posts, and cardboard and plywood temporarily resolving broken windows- these provisional solutions to daily problems punctuate life in northern New Mexico (and by extension, the “rural” at large). This problem solving communicates an informal, humble beauty through it’s execution, instability and awkwardness. A beauty that seems to me to be paralleled the patchwork life of the communities where I see employed these sometimes hurried, sometimes masterful solutions.

Tolbert received his BFA in Painting from the University of Houston in 2008 and his MFA in Painting from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2010. Tolbert’s work has been exhibited twice at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston and was included in the McClain Gallery exhibition Summertime Blues in 2014, with a subsequent solo show in 2018. In New York, Tolbert participated in the Edward Albee Foundation Residency, Montauk, and has shown with David Richard Gallery and in the group show UnderErasure at Pierogi Gallery. Recent projects include an outdoor installation at the Blaffer Art Museum’s downtown Houston satellite space, and commissions for United Airlines. His work has been reviewed in Art in America, Glasstire, and Visual Art Source, among others; and his writings have been published in Southwest Contemporary (previously THE Magazine).