McClain Gallery is pleased to announce Shane Tolbert: Blood Harmony. In his second solo exhibition at the gallery, Tolbert navigates a vibrant intersection of modernist aesthetics, experimental paint handling, and a palette that relates to the high desert landscape of New Mexico, his home since 2017. For these new paintings and collages, Tolbert draws inspiration from his interactions and relationships with Santa Fe and the neighboring mountain towns, creating visual passages by way of movement and marks on the canvas.
In a distinct shift from his last body of work, Tolbert points his observation of time from a geological and cosmic scale to a more human realm, partially guided by the isolation and contraction of time and space during the pandemic. There is a focus on time as directly related to his body: the new construction of a flower garden at his home, the course of meteorological time and its unpredictability, the difficulty of watching a parent pass from afar, to the joys of life’s milestones.
As Tolbert elaborates: “This current practice of painting and collage touches on recent life events -- from the monumental to the prosaic -- interpreting memories into abstract compositions. My paintings at times are fussy and meticulous, but also seemingly unlabored, as they grasp at a visual equivalence to process collective moments of our dispassionate and chaotic world, a record.”
While Tolbert’s compositions remain formally driven, he plays with and pulls at his medium to create hotly abstract paintings. He employs a paint application technique he has been utilizing and developing for over a decade: one that combines traditional modes of painting with pliable acrylic paint pours, an expansion of the materiality of the medium that allows him to manipulate paint in its solid form. Meandering multicolored passages ribbon throughout many of these paintings, sometimes invoking textiles and traditional weaving, and, perhaps, a look back to Tolbert’s previous work with deadstock textiles and redaction techniques. The artist also picks the brush back up and makes use of apparent masking techniques: blue painter’s tape is applied to the canvas, painted over and then removed. The space unveiled below is painted in the same distinctive blue as the original tape, a referential move that subtly nods to the tradition and practices of painting at large.
This sense of tension between visual elements, layering of patterns, and the choice of titles hint at more personal references. “Blood Harmony,” the exhibition’s namesake, is painted in vertical stripes of green, brown, purple, and red to allow the primed canvas to peek through. The titular phrase refers to the auditory phenomenon when siblings or other relations harmonize in song together, an effect that can be profoundly moving as the singers’ similar vocal cords produce a unique sonic unison. The distinctly independent paintings in the exhibition make a robust stand together– a harmonious record of the artist’s research and practice.
SHANE TOLBERT (b. 1985, Corsicana, TX) currently lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 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. McClain Gallery exhibited Tolbert’s work in its two-artist booth at Untitled Art Fair, Miami in 2019 and in a solo online exhibition in 2020. 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 large scale installation at Northpark Mall in Dallas, 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).