Painter Wes Lang unveils ‘Endless Horizons’ at Almine Rech in Aspen
Solo show is final exhibition at Almine Rech pop-up
What: Wes Lang’s ‘Endless Horizons’
Where: Almine Rech
When: Through Sept. 12
More info: alminerech.com
The painter Wes Lang started and abandoned and painted over countless versions of what would become his “Endless Horizons” series, eventually finding a creative groove with earnest messages of hope paired with imagery of death and memento mori.
Lang’s eight hard-won completed canvases in the series now comprise his solo show, which opened Friday at Almine Rech in Aspen.
“It’s important to me to not be an artist that just has a painting that everybody wants hang over their couch,” Lang, 49, said on Thursday in the gallery. “I’m not an interior decorator. I’m a real painter. Those are two different things and you have a choice to do one or the other.”
That sense of integrity and perfectionism is what made making these works a somewhat tortured process, spanning roughly four and stretching into early summer as the much-anticipated Aspen opening approached.
The “Endless Horizons” works, with images built on several layers of paint and abandoned backgrounds, make use of Native American iconography, skulls and text.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Confrontational at first glance and bold in their color statements, the works beam with inspiration and are bordered with mantras and messages like “Congratulations – You are the Universe. This is a Manifestation.”
The Los Angeles-based artist points to Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly and Martin Kippenberger as aesthetic inspirations for the pieces, but their messages came from within him as he found — after some struggle — a sunny and fearless outlook.
“They’re like propaganda posters for positivity,” Lang said.
Lang started working with Almine Rech galleries recently after a years-long break from public exhibitions.
Eleven years ago, he went independent, left his New York-based practice and moved into the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. There, he embarked on a new body of work, staging private exhibitions in the penthouse there.
The gambit worked. His first show there, he said, sold out in 30 minutes. He hit a rich creative vein, he recalled, and enjoyed sales he never had before, and was able to keep his work underground without public gallery representation or subjecting himself to the group shows and art fairs he’d soured on.
Lang said he was happy to keep it that way.
“It was my intention to circumvent the galleries I didn’t want to work with,” he said. “But a few years ago I decided I wanted to work with a real serious place. I felt like I was ready.”
That’s when he met Almine Rech (“She just showed up!” Lang recalled) who was opening a namesake pop-up gallery in Aspen adding to the international slate of Almine Rech galleries. Lang was intrigued by the prospect of making a new body of work for Aspen and showing here.
Though he’d never been here until this week, Lang was fascinated by the idea of exhibiting in Aspen and digging into this odd outpost for contemporary art and the avant-garde.
“I was very curious to see the marriage of the small town and all this art and culture and high end retail,” he said. “I love all that shit. I’m sure it brings all different kinds of people from all over the world here and it’s like a tiny, tiny melting pot.”
Lang’s show is the fifth solo exhibition presented at Almine Rech in Aspen this summer, the culmination of an aggressive curatorial program by the multi-national gallery making its first entry into the Aspen scene. It will close on Sept. 12.
“The way we structured our programming here was to focus on the solo shows, rather than bringing leftover inventory from our other locations,” gallerist Ethan Buchsbaum said. “We wanted to bring new material and material we’d also be happy to show in New York or Paris or London.”
The gallery opened in a high-profile street-level space adjacent to the Aspen Art Museum in June amid a spate of pop-ups in Aspen by international blue-chip galleries all aiming to reach collectors spending more time here in the pandemic-bred urban exodus. Sales, new connections with Aspen collectors and the public reception of the shows made the investment of coming here worth it, said Buchsbaum.
“The results that we saw for each of the shows were far above what we could have imagined,” Buchsbaum said, though not disclosing sales numbers. “We had very active responses to every exhibition.”
The gallery will close up shop after Lang’s show ends Sept. 12. it has not yet committed to return in 2022, but Buchsbaum said Almine Rech’s summer pop-up could become an annual tradition.
“It’s in the conversation,” he said. “We would consider next summer.”
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The Hexton Gallery in Aspen this week announced a new initiative showcasing work by Colorado-based visual artists.