Artist Robert Brinker explodes paintings for “Mindfunk” at the Art Base in Basalt
IF YOU GO …
What: Robert Brinker’s ‘Mindfunk’
Where: The Art Base, Basalt
When: Opening reception Friday, Oct. 11, 5-7 p.m.; artist talk Thursday, Oct. 24, 5:30 p.m.; exhibition runs through Nov. 1
More info: theartbase.org
Sometimes you want to put together a puzzle and sometimes you want to dump the pieces on the floor. Aspen-based artist Robert Brinker does both with shards and scraps from previous bodies of work in his new solo exhibition, “Mindfunk,” opening Friday at the Art Base in Basalt.
This fascinating new body of work includes several permutations of non-traditional paintings, originally inspired by bits of paper left over from Brinker’s signature cut-paper works.
“Mindfunk” may seem at first to be a departure from his best known practice. But the new work began quite literally from the same place.
Brinker saves everything. His studio — built into a steep hillside on West Buttermilk and shared with his partner of 25 years, Pamela Joseph — doubles as a sort of emporium of half-formed ideas, abandoned projects and the detritus of those completed. He’s found inspiration in seemingly mundane studio flotsam like his paint-smudged palettes and curled sheets of film. “Mindfunk” began with scraps of snipped paper he’d saved in piles.
Looking at the unintentional shapes left behind after meticulously crafting cut-paper clouds and dragons, he thought he might make something of them.
“You can see there are all these different cuts and shapes, where are pretty random because they were leftover bits,” he said, sifting through a pile of tiny paper shards Monday. “I’m using all the leftovers and being forced to use all these shapes that I probably never would have made.”
Brinker started by collaging the pieces together into small abstract pieces. Then he thought about how those collages might translate into paintings. But, in keeping with his career-long aesthetic interest in the power of layered textures, Brinker wasn’t content with a flat painting on canvas. Instead, he wanted to take the modular technique of the cut paper collages and translate it into a larger painting format — so he cut wood pieces, wrapped them in painted linen, and then fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle to form shaped canvases.
“It’s not a duplicate,” he said, looking from a collage on a workbench to painting on the wall. “It’s a next step.”
The step after that was an explosion.
In the process of making the jigsaw paintings, Brinker was inspired by seeing the pieces separated and spread across his studio floor. So he began experimenting with works that didn’t put the pieces back together.
“It helped me make something I never could have made before,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I actually want to explode them.’”
The explosions are the two centerpiece installations of the “Mindfunk” exhibition: sculpted and painted shapes spread across the walls and covered in abstract imagery and dot patterns. One, “Mindfunk Grisaille Explosion,” is rendered in grays. The other, “Mindfunk Color Explosion,” bursts in day-glo colors with abstract strokes of paint reminiscent of street art graffiti and “Saved By the Bell” typography. (Brinker is visually omnivorous, taking his cues from photo portraiture, pixel patterns, commercial signage, neo-classical imagery and kids’ cereal box cartoons.)
Brinker has exhibited internationally and locally, but this weekend’s opening marks his first show at the Art Base. He said the nonprofit gallery gave him compete freedom to do what he wanted with the show, which led him to explore this completely new terrain as an artist.
Brinker first arrived in the mountains in 1993, running the print shop at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. In the decades since, he’s shown frequently in Aspen galleries — most recently at Harvey Preston Gallery — as well as being represented at Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver and Francis M. Naumann in Manhattan.
His best known work through the years have been his intricate and beguiling cut paper works, such as his “Chasing Dragons” series which used the recognizable pattern of Chinese cut-paper dragons but was embedded with imagery of nude models.
Brinker’s detail work on his cut-paper pieces is tough on the hands. So, by physical necessity, his studio practice includes other forms that give his hand muscles a break — photography and collage and collaborations with Joseph (their “Hybrids” series was exhibited at Francis Naumann in the spring).
“There are a lot of similarities and overlap, even though I’m more abstract and she is dealing with more with social and political issues,” Brinker said of their influence on one another.
Brinker expects to keep working on the exploded “Mindfunk” series, and expects the idea to continue morphing into new forms.
“I’m going to continue to make them,” Brinker said, “and make them from bigger pieces.”
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