Emerging from the Grid

Calvin Ross Carl's New Paintings at HQHQ

I’m not sure if it’s the infallibility of Cool-Whip that has pervaded my household post-Thanksgiving or something more Renfieldesque, but I want to ingest Calvin Ross Carl’s new paintings at HQHQ. The sheer viscosity of his paint application shares startling kinship with pie topping and would surely make Clement Greenberg titter with ineluctable delight, but the deeper, more psychological, associations behind the works leave my mind hemming and hawing about unseen layers.

Calvin Ross Carl, Stop Believing (Things You Can't See), 2014

Calvin Ross Carl, Stop Believing (Things You Can’t See), 2014, acrylic on canvas. Image Courtesy the artist and HQHQ. Photo: Jessica Pierson

Painterly application is one thing, but Carl’s brushwork is methodical, exacting, and speaks to the digital age. Where past generations might have seen the hand of the artist, here we encounter a (hand-painted) homage to the machine. Each stroke is a stand-in for the pixel/voxel that makes up the Grid/Cube (Hypercube?) of graphic design and virtual play. The works are flat in their graphic sensibility, and read in photographs as near-print/digital. But up close, the systematic lumpiness is evident, and the artist’s inner dialogue is glimpsed. The delicate mar of a few stray paint strokes in 6:30PM Session on Empathy offers a helpful key to this very human element of Carl’s seemingly cold and calculated compositions.

Straying from his grid-based inquiries into color matching and association (as in his recent work at Ditch Projects), the HQHQ paintings take the first step toward unlocking the almost autobiographical musings of Carl’s practice. These are transitional paintings. What was only hinted at inside the geometry of past canvases is given an added level of clarity through the addition of text. Provocative phrases and unseeing masks of clip-art sensibility prompt new conversations about these works and their predecessors. Carl has opened up (but not too much) about his underlying motivations for creation.

Calvin Ross Carl, The Richest Man in the Graveyard (401K), 2014

Calvin Ross Carl, The Richest Man in the Graveyard (401K), 2014, acrylic on canvas. Image Courtesy the artist and HQHQ. Photo: Anna Reed

“Color is my crutch,” quips Carl, and certainly one might whiff a more melancholy air in the monochrome outlier The Richest Man in the Graveyard (401K). As this all-black painting hangs in the bright fluorescence, it darkly eyes the candy-colored goings-on of its brethren while secretly harboring the alphanumeric phrase ‘401K’. It’s not too much of a stretch to take this as an abstracted portrait of the the artist, dressed all in black and stressed from his day job. With this in mind, the smiley faces become masks for social interaction and the phrases become daily mantras. Give up. Kiss her goodbye. The things you can’t see.


ALL PLAY AND NO WORK is on view at HQHQ Project Space, 232 SE Oak #108, until January 4. It includes new work by Calvin Ross Carl and Matt Jacobs. The gallery is open Thursday – Sunday from 1-4 pm.

One Response.

  1. christine herr says:

    I knew Calvin as a very young boy. He didn’t seem to play outside with the other kids, or my son, who was friends with Calvins brother. He was a loner. How wonderful to see what he has done.

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