Sue Scott Gallery is pleased to announce Profiles in Fugitive Light, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Tom McGrath. The work continues his use of noir tropes and the nocturne as the site for both painterly speculation and pictorial treatment. The artist dramatizes the collapse of tactile and optical representation with passages of dark, narrative ambiguity. This particular group of works nevertheless marks a near-complete departure from the grounding horizons in previous nocturnes, resulting in a landscape unmoored in spectral shadow by an eerie, unnatural luminism.
The nocturne imagery is meant to evoke uncertainty despite a sense of place, where the gradual adjustment of the eye in the traditional night scene is replaced by noire-ish simultaneous contrasts and shadow patterning. The descriptive edges of unspecified locales emerge and recede in almost seamless contradiction with veils of sprayed paint taking the shape of foliage silhouetting against a ground of unnatural color. McGrath’s process captures the shape of real forms in profile, which are visually as indebted to Man Ray’s photograms as they are to the spray-painted hands lining the prehistoric murals of Chauvet in Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams - taken as evidence of a proto-cinematic imagery as much as painting history. The horizon itself, the vanishing point and its recessive order, has been all but obscured by dark atmosphere and by leeching artificial light through the woven superimposition of a chain link fence.
The “weave” of the fence is one motif that permeates and structures the show’s imagery and takes the scale of a readymade, a one-to-one relation between viewer and image. In a procedure not unlike drip painting, the canvas is placed flat, and layers of color applied in mists and splatters through an actual chain link, which is subsequently removed leaving only the image. The chain link is surface and barrier, a sign whose “presence” owes to the image of light and atmosphere through the grid-like residual trace left in the fence’s absence. The fence thereby produces and frames its own image of what lies beyond.
This division between embodied and pictorial space seems analogous to a painting's surface as a boundary or border-space dividing interior from exterior. Unlike the structural grid, however, the fence is unambiguous in its narrative positioning of the viewer as a captive outsider. This position evokes a narrative of desire framed by its very impasse. Whether it’s a foreboding industrial light haze or a seductive, indigo night sky, the viewer only recognizes their surroundings as they recognize their place: on either side of the fence. As the saying goes, “you always know where you stand.”
Tom McGrath was born in New Milford, CT, in 1978. He graduated from Cooper Union in 2000 and received his MFA from Columbia University in 2002. This is McGrath’s second solo exhibition with Sue Scott Gallery. He has had solo exhibitions at Maruani-Noirhomme, Knokke, Belgium; Zach Feuer Gallery, New York; Lia Rumma, Naples, Italy; and two-person exhibitions at Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles; and David Castillo Gallery, Miami. His work has been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Neuberger Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, University of Virginia Art Museum; RISD Museum of Art; and the Orlando Museum of Art, among others.