Galerie Tangerine through July 14
WORDS Megan Kelley
Fred Grgich moves through his studio, energetic and effervescent, and his bright demeanor reflects itself in the bold figuration and color of Lush Urban Canopy, his latest exhibit of work for Galerie Tangerine.
Visual themes of evidence, memory, and accumulation form the foundations of Grgich’s painting. Lower layers are woven from pieces of ephemera, photographs, and pages, as the surface layers move across textured remains of past painting and mark making. Grgich describes his process as cyclical efforts to “destroy and create.” He often scrapes, chips, sands, grinds, and smears his top layers of paint in order to reveal the archaeology of the work beneath.
Many of Grgich’s canvases incorporate physical artifacts as well: Found objects and repurposed elements are commonly buried within the work. Athletic shoes form the feet of a figure, or dried flowers from funerals and weddings form central seeds for elaborate floral motifs, while studio remnants—sandpaper scraps, paint chips, and stirrers—find their way into suggestions of frames, targets, and arrows beneath acrylic paint. These personal fragments from his environment create historical as well as textural depth in his work. The paintings serve as maps through time, unfolding context and evoking memory as Grgich engages the work.
Rather than relying on studies, Grgich chooses to live intuitively within the moment of working, relying on his honed instincts as an artist and designer as he leaps directly into the materials. A series of collaged scraps creates an initial base, the elements chosen for their creative spark. “Many artists choose to suffer [through the decision-making process],” he says, riffling through a box of leather-bound pages, old concert tickets, ribbon, and photos. “I embrace that you can always change something if you don’t like it.”
Grgich’s method takes him through a prolific and energetic generation phase, pulling forms out of the canvas as paint and charcoal block out negative space. His background in advertising lends a bold, graphic appearance to his contrasted plains of color, while his painterly aesthetic allows for the sensitivity of drips, discolorations, smears, shifts, and shrouds. As a furniture designer and fabricator, Grgich often creates his own studio tools, tinkering and improvising to find the right sense of line, weight, or shape.
The final works reflect this intensity of thought and effort. Negative spaces carve the figures of birds and portraits, their underpaintings and buried collage giving them presence and attention. The finished work demands that the viewer navigate between frenetic vitality and engaged space, yet remains accessible and luscious. Lush Urban Canopy rises from paint into a kaleidoscopic wildness both local and exotic, a chorus of wildlife caught on canvas.