E R I K R E E L
In 2009 Erik ReeL achieved a personal breakthrough in his painting, eliminating all vestiges of figuration and representation. What remained had been hinted at previously in his backgrounds, but now went far beyond what had appeared in the previous decades. The new freedom revealed the true strength of the artist's hand, and a new spaciousness, clarity, and nuance. The color is more subdued, but still at the core of the visual experience.
ReeL's drawing and the sense of his hand, which has always been easily recognizable and a strong point of previous work that chose to reveal it, comes out with more small markings and sgraffitto, the scratching of the top surfaces to reveal colors below. The work takes on a new tough, yet elegaic, linear energy. Spatial ambiguities and the layering begin to impose a certain, intriguing cognitive processing in the mind of a viewer who takes their time and lets the painting sink into their consciousness.
In its denial of references to the material world--yes, there are sometimes words, but these seem to be carefully chosen to evoke more of a mental, ethereal reference, than a material one--the new work could be read as a critique of materialism, of the machine, the machine-made. The work is aggressively hand-made. No sense of computer or photographic imaging appears anywhere. On the contrary, the work is a triumph of feeling over the manufactured; a counterpoint to Post-Modernist machinations and mechanics. Other writers, most notably, J. Carlsson, who used to write pseudonomonously for ArtForum, have sensed a movement beyond Post-Modernist modes in the new work.
Though the new imagery is graffiti-like, it does not fit neatly into the recent tradition of tagging and street graffiti painting, but seems to draw more from the original meaning and context of graffitti, which after all, originally meant 'scratched line', not spray-paint. Interestingly, the work seems to be highly admired by many graffitti artists and collectors as a more private and nuanced, yet obliquely allied strain of pure painting with a distinct hand and intelligently constrained means of expression.
For ReeL, marking seems to be a defining characteristic of what it means to be human: he gives us inchoate marks as the primordial act of signification and meaning for human consciousness.
Barcelona, November 2010