Catharine Clark Gallery opens its 2020 program with a solo exhibition of new paintings titled "Complications" by Chester Arnold. Arnold’s recent works are a stark visual contrast to his acclaimed 2018 solo exhibition "Borderline," which depicted renderings of the border wall between the United States and Mexico in various states of construction, defacement, and disrepair. By comparison, "Complications" offers a poignant meditation on “refuge” and the lengths we might undertake to escape our current political chaos.
His narrative paintings depict tumultuous crossings to island sanctuaries, with rudimentary shelters perched on top of precarious slopes. Arnold notes that this “body of work reflects a mind’s natural and unrestrained adventures with friction and gravity at its core,” where even seemingly bucolic landscapes bear psychological weight. "Ascent of Man" (2019), for example, depicts a hiker scaling a cliff, while fields below him are consumed by smoke and fire. In other paintings, prisons and structures of detention appear in the landscapes throughout Arnold’s island scenes, suggesting that utopias can also be quietly sinister.
But while Arnold’s work often explores the unsettling side of the bucolic, his formally arresting paintings also invite us into remarkable worlds that are at both dreamlike and startlingly realized. As Arnold remarks, “the world of the imagination, as a stage which reflects a life’s lived experiences, has never felt so crowded at every direction with urgency. My paintings, in kind, process these endless images that morph and distill themselves into painted forms.” Coinciding with the artist’s exhibition, the gallery is pleased to announce that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is acquiring a major painting by Arnold, "Beyond This" (2018), for its permanent collection.