Paint/Rag #36, 2014; oil on panel, 16 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 6 in.
I was totally surprised and delighted when I walked into Jack Shainman Gallery to see Leslie Wayne's exhibition "Rags". I was surprised because they were not what I expected from seeing them online; this was yet another instance that made clear how much we miss seeing work solely onscreen. I nearly didn't see the show because my online viewing had left me with a shrug as a response, which turned out to be so mistaken: I loved it.
Installation shot courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery.
What I hadn't expected was the modest size of these works, none larger than a foot and a half. Looking at them became an intimate experience, rewarding close looking with a wealth of rich detail.
Paint/Rag #30, 2013; oil on panel, 18 1/4 x 12 1/2 x 5 in.
The paintings are made of layers of oil paint, just paint; no canvas or other ground holds them together. The panel is used to mount the painting to the wall. The paint depicts itself, becomes sculptural, is an evocative physical presence.
Paint/Rag #30, detail
There is a magical alteration in the medium as it becomes solid and folded and draped. Each piece has a different approach to color, surface, and design; the works don't settle into an easy pattern.
Paint/Rag #24, 2013; oil on panel, 14 x 10 in.
Wayne calls the show "Rags", referring to paint rags, but I had the uncanny feeling looking at this body of work that what I was seeing were prayerful offerings. In #24 I feel hands holding the draped cloth aloft, and kept thinking of Joseph's coat of many colors.
Paint/Rag #19, 2013; oil on panel, 14 x 7 1/2 x 2 1/4 in.
There is a tenderness and vulnerability to images of folded cloth, even when intense in color. It's strange that I have this response since I'm not a religious person, but there is something in the small size of these works and their irregular folds that touches me deeply.
Paint/Rag #31, 2013; oil on panel, 14 x 9 x 4 1/2 in.
In their forms I am reminded of Medieval and early Renaissance paintings with folds of dresses and cloaks spread out around the Virgin and saints.
Paint/Rag #31 detail
The surfaces and colors are juicy and rich.
Paint/Rag #29, 2013; oil on panel, 14 x 9 1/2 x 5 3/8 in.
Then Wayne presents an austere cloth, white with a little bit of blue and yellow showing; the paint surface here is matte and seems to be worked with a knife so it has the look of plaster, as though it is the armature for a sculpture.
Paint/Rag #32, 2013; oil on panel, 15 x 9 1/2 x 6 in.
It is also wonderful to see the contrast of outer and inner colors, with the outside of the "rag" being multi-colored.....
Paint/Rag #32 detail
.....while single colors are revealed on its underside. The orange paint has a drag to it, a gritty texture contrasted with the smoother outer surface. Evidence of small cracks in the paint surface tell of time and change.
Paint/Rag #34, 2014; oil on panel, 16 x 10 1/2 x 5 in.
The surface of #34 is glossy and smooth, which works well with the regular squiggly lines. The color is colorfully somber, if that's possible as a description.
Paint/Rag #21, 2013; oil on panel, 10 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 2 1/4 in.
Like with #24, I feel the presence of hands holding up the folds of "cloth". Folds remind us of clothing, so seem so closely related to the body and to human activity. For me this is what gives these works their tender quality.
Paint/Rag #21 detail
I especially love this piece because of its ambiguity: it shows graceful folds but they are broken and brittle, their edges torn and jagged in places; this creates a subtle emotional tension. Rags are utilitarian things, rescued from other uses, generally tossed about and disregarded. Leslie Wayne's "Rags" are objects to treasure.