Plein air painters Levi Jackson and Adam Bateman are featured in a show at Rio Gallery in Salt Lake City, January 20 through March 10. They shared their thoughts on the exhibition with PleinAir Today recently.
Sixty paintings comprise the show, with an emphasis on winter landscapes. The Utah duo says, “The trope of plein air painting is important to both of us as a continuation of our exploration of the visual culture that is related to the settlement of the west and Manifest Destiny, as well as an exploration of historical ideas related to the Sublime. For us, the action of making the paintings en plein air is a performative action that involves claiming the land and Manifest Destiny. We have made plein air paintings of traditional landscape subjects — pastoral settings, quaint pioneer houses, cottonwood trees, desert, and mountain vistas.
“The paintings exist as objects and also exist as a document or record of the ‘performance’ they engaged in —the action of painting them. The action of the painting is more important than the objects of the painting in this scenario — though it is the painting-objects that will be displayed. It is a common practice among performance artists to produce objects through the performance that become what an audience views as ephemera of the performance. Josef Beuys and Matthew Barney are great examples of this practice. One could also argue that Jackson Pollock’s famous drip paintings are more about the action of making them than the image on the canvas.”
A representative from the gallery comments, “Painters and photographers create signifiers out of nature, effectively naming those views into existence. The act of naming something is to give it symbolic meaning and to imply ownership. The act of framing and capturing something (through photography or painting or other means) is a proprietary act that creates symbolic meaning and specific existence to a particular view or landscape. That act of claiming through the capturing or recording of a particular view is of interest to Levi and Adam as a metaphor for Manifest Destiny. It’s important to note here that it is the act of claiming more than the image that is produced that is important to them.”
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