Gaby Collins-Fernández: Very High BaroqueSeptember 14th - October 14th, 2023
Nina Johnson is pleased to present Very High Baroque, a solo exhibition of new works by artist Gaby Collins-Fernández. Opening September 14th in the Front Gallery, Collins-Fernández will showcase nine paintings which display previously uncharted levels of density, ephemerality, and abstraction, while evoking the artist’s emotions, memories, and visual inheritances.
Born and raised in New York City to a Cuban-American family, Collins-Fernández is known for collaging digital imagery printed on varied textiles to create paintings that are a hybrid of the digital, physical, and photographic worlds. Her tactile and dynamic compositions complicate ideas of abstraction, figuration, and where the hand begins and ends.
These new works employ a meticulous, step-by-step process in which the artist draws inspiration from the past by using personal and family photos and historical artworks. The artist’s process begins with digital photo-collages that are then printed on unconventional materials such as beach towels, chiffon, and double-sided sequins. These printed substrates are diligently cut and sewn together to form a surface of shifting opacity and transparency, primed with clear acrylic that the artist then completes with layers of oil paint.
For Collins-Fernández, this rigorous technique is deeply personal; these works allow the artist to reflect on how emotions and memories are organized within (and without) the body, and prompt us to consider how a painting can render history in a new, timely manner.
Working iteratively and stochastically, the artist channels visual and physical influences to embody a unique vision of painting’s potential in the 21st century, navigating its complexities amidst the myriad forms and formats of imagery we encounter in daily life. Having grown up in New York City, much of the spatial logic in Collins-Fernández’s work demonstrates the stacked, frenetic energy of the city, and its emotionally and psychologically crowded atmosphere.
In Collins-Fernández’s introspective exploration, formal and imagistic elements emerge as recurring motifs. The title of the show refers to the artist’s sustained interest in the Baroque as a historical and colonial aesthetic; a style defined by artifice and repetition; and a logic of reproduction and repetition. Baroque image structures are foundationally referential—they use pre-existing forms and iconography to reflect on shared knowledge within highly elaborate material structures. Similarly, Collins-Fernández uses the logic of connotations, the reflective function of algorithms, and affective materiality to comment on the abstraction underlying contemporary emotional and pictorial dynamics.
“One of the things I am most excited about in this show is the new levels of density and abstraction in the work. The paintings feel like they are challenging me as I approach making them, and they also have been really surprising in terms of how they resolve—which ironically makes them difficult to write and talk about,” said Gaby Collins-Fernández.
“I thought coming into this body of work that I would be zeroing in on particular subject matter, and it turns out that what I have been focusing on is more ephemeral: transparency, the overlay of images, how to create a space which is both denser and deeper and more filled with light.”
Very High Baroque is on view through October 14, 2023.