David Fobes‘s show at the Athenaeum is titled Code-O-Chromes, signaling its delicious conflation of color, op, painting, quilting, and CGI. (A conflation so rich one hapless critic panned the show for asserting that “painting is dead,” when in fact it contains two works rendered in… paint.)
The key to the show — and the conflation — is the use of duct tape as a primary medium. If this sounds implausible, behold the impoverishment of your knowledge of the world of duct tape, which is available in a myriad of colors (~35), patterns (leopard, plaid, Hello Kitty), and grades (utility, industrial, military, nuclear).
What duct tape offers artists is intriguing: the pieceability of textile; the luster and saturation of paint; and a variety of surface textures ranging in visual effect from fuzzy nubbin to reptile skin.
When viewed up close, these surface properties (fully exploited by the artist) combine with the high-def intercolor seams to lend the work a material heft unachievable through paint.
More unexpected is the effect these same properties have on the work when viewed from afar, which manifests as a near-ineffable deviation from the look and feel of paint, keeping the work slightly off-center, and so remarkably free of the cliche that op can so easily fall prey to.
Most unexpected of all: how well neon op harmonizes with the traditional Spanish architecture of the Athenaeum space. There’s simply no good reason for this, but there it is.