Galerie Tangerine through October 19

WORDS Audrey Molloy


Photograph by Nina Covington

This month, Galerie Tangerine opens Janet Decker Yanez: Evolution, an exhibition of abstract soak-stain paintings that lyrically interrogate surface as a condition of paint. The Nashville-based artist and founder of Ground Floor Gallery + Studios is best known for her use of unconventional materials in improvisatory and psychedelic paintings about ident-

Thoughts Bloom, 2014, Food Coloring on Packing Pads, 6′ x 4′

ity and self-preservation—a studied process using food coloring that Yanez refers to as “spray-painting.” Evolution is the first comprehensive exhibition of Yanez’s material investigation into food dye and alternative surfaces, but also charts an astute examination of the relationship between image and canvas, color and emotional depth.

Yanez’s formal dialectic in Evolution is a series of abstract shapes, poetic gestures, and translucent figurations. Comprised of three different bodies of work that Yanez has been investigating concurrently since 2013, this exhibition significantly underscores the conversational elements which Yanez has articulated throughout Unwinding Sheets, Conversations, and Artificial Comfort by thematically selecting works whose formal or contextual subject is related to a figurative dialogue.

In a series of texts accompanying her creative research Yanez writes:  


“ …Scar tissue normally forms during the first two stages of healing.


Sometimes conversations are so crisp and clear, others are a blur.

Can have such impact or mean nothing

Conversations with self

Conversations with others

Talked to death

Conversations have a beginning—a germ of an idea. Then an ebb and flow, then it is over, then analyzation.

True or artificial. Public knowledge or personal.

Self-serving or altruistic

Secrets—do you tell, or keep them to yourself?”


Worn, Tattered and Torn, 2014, Food Coloring on Packing Pads, 6′ x 4′


“I began finding heads—portraits—within the smatterings and pools of color,” said Janet. “[Making the surface] very wet with a vinegar-water spray bottle, I dab in the spine and loose facial anatomy. Ephemeral, shroud-like faces emerged from these lifeless, linen-like materials. Features developed as the coloring puddled or ran depending on whether I was working on a flat surface or vertically.”

The caliber of expertise Yanez has generated with her food-coloring and alternative papers process is implicit in the breadth of artistic inquiry represented in Evolution. It is her conceptual treatment of these materials to produce portraits that is revelatory. By utilizing the textural variation and layered seams inherent to her packing-sheet paper, Yanez masterfully activates the raw edges of her canvases by allowing dye to sink organically into the folds and creases framing her central figures. As with Thoughts Bloom (2014), the result is that of a hyper-saturated color field or preternatural aura floating psychically above the surface of the paper—an all-over treatment of the paintings’ surface which frames her subjects. It is an intensity of color and contrast that pervades the works on exhibit but is most strikingly employed in the large-scale portraits from her Unwinding Sheets series.

As in The Golden Age (2014), a fluid amber halo of hair contains the evasive imprint of a wide-eyed face—a haunting encounter made visceral by the sharply dimensional field of indigo from which it emanates. Worn, Tattered and Torn (2014) proceeds similarly; awash in luminous hues of magenta, the gasping outline of a face glows virescent amid the contrasting pink field that surrounds it.

The palpable physical presence of the Unwinding Sheets portraits is due in part to their immense size. Standing before one of the several 4 ft. by 6 ft. portraits exhibited in Evolution, a viewer is made hyper-aware of the experiential quality that these saturated works impart. By employing the negative space surrounding her phantasmic figures as color fields, Yanez is able to convey a singular type of emotive signification that is free from gestural action or brushstrokes. Color and scale are transmuted—free from objective content—and become indexical for the emotional subject of these portraits. It is a pure synthesis of material form and function.

Look into My Eyes, 2015, Food Coloring on Packing Pads, 6′ x 4′

This manner of working readily recalls the late abstract-expressionist color field works by artists such as Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, and Kenneth Noland, who similarly primed their canvases with water and were interested in color as a tool to translate basic human emotions. However, the colors and forms Yanez is creating are partially incidental, contingent upon the physical interaction between water, the weight of mixed dyes, material imperfections in the paper, and her own hand. It is a process and method of working nearly performative in its spontaneity. Working on several pieces at the same time, Yanez summons up interactions, dialogues, and impervious faces from spilled dyes. Certainly, the critical success of Evolution is that it seems to have occurred all at once. 

Evolution is on exhibit at Galerie Tangerine through October 19. For more information, visit See more of Yanez’s work at and


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