Gyan Shrosbree is an artist based in Fairfield, Iowa, who uses everyday, and often “masculine” materials, like duct tape, and turns out colorful, dazzling collages, with paint, that have a sheen and tactility. They almost feel like the hides of some mythical animal from a plasticized world.
Tarp Studies, her solo show at the small haus collective gallery, above The Brick in the Blue Star Complex in San Antonio, is imbued with a crackle of positivity. The pieces radiate with affirmation, and looking at them I recalled Christina Hendricks’ character Joan on Mad Men’s reaction to doing cocaine for the first time: “I just feel like I received really good news.” If you received a package with a Francis Bacon of Lucian Freud image on it, it would be a terrible omen on the level of this, and you should cancel your year. But if you received a package with a Shrosbree collage on it, it would suggest that you had won VIP tickets to a New York reunion screening and vogue-ing ball for Paris is Burning.
The works in Tarp Studies include medium-size pieces that have some of the same ineffable sacred geometry found in the quilts from Gee’s Bend. Other pieces form kinds of curtains or flaps (e.g. tarps) that look like the entry to ornate yurts as designed by John Paul Gaultier. On the shelf of one wall that looks out on the Brick space, several small icon-size pieces form a series that is charged with the energy of access cards — as if you could flash one of them to a hulking doorman and be allowed an audience with Grace Jones.
In her artist statement, Shrosbree writes:
“Material is a great love of mine. Words are another. Color drives me wild. That perfectly-off color combination that just happens to work so well. I like transforming one thing into another. Sometimes by using it in its raw form and doing very little to it. Other times by dragging it through the mud and bringing it out upside down. That place where beauty can be disgusting is a place I like to land.
I am fascinated by the way the world interacts. People crack me up. Humor is a big part of my life and the way that I see the world. I think that comes out in my paintings. I would like it to in some way or another.”
The warmth of the statement comes through in the pieces that make up the show. Contrary to the cliché that “hip” people are often icy, pretentious assholes, in my life the people I’ve known with the best taste are often the kindest. Shrosbree has that celestial taste, the kind of aesthetic refinement and imagination that manifests itself in pure joy — the frisson of freedom in realizing that beauty can be disgusting and vice versa. This gives the pieces an exhilarating aura of insouciance akin to the works of Basquiat that belies technical rigor.
Shrosbree’s works are so effervescent that one could dismiss them as “apolitical”. But there is something righteous in looking at the grotesque hellscape of our world, feeling disgusted, and then making something beautiful.
At haus collective, San Antonio through Oct. 27, 2017.