It is easy to dismiss Thomas Roach’s work as a young student’s flirtation with the dry conceptualism of the 1960s and 1970s, but to do so would to miss the point. With a deep nod to artists Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner, paragons of conceptualism who stripped art down to its most basic elements, and seeking to expose its fundamental nature, Roach also simplifies to the utmost end. Instead of mental expansion, though, Roach wishes only to remain obtuse and impenetrable, highlighting our inability to fix meaning upon a deconstructed world of images and signs, in which inherent natures are nowhere to be found.
If you plan to attend the exhibition seeking immediate comfort in rich and sensuous images, prepare to be sorely disappointed. However, if you are inclined towards a slower, more contemplative, interaction with the art you seek, then by all means stay and enjoy. It would be unfair to say Roach’s images do not posses immediate appeal; they have a well-fashioned sense of order, which Roach tries hard to cultivate—ultimately paying off to his own benefit—a quality that resonates quickly and favorably with the well-disposed viewer. Order seems to be Roach’s primary obsession, and a key source of content, as he pares down as much of his painting process as possible—reducing it to its basic elements, canvas, gesso, paper, line, color, text, and image. Absent, though not conspicuously, are brush strokes; Roach seems to have reduced or eliminated any sign of them, in favor of less direct forms of image production like silk-screen, inkjet printing, and in a few cases incorporating drawings by his studio partner, Ingrid Olson. He picks apart his process, and by extension the processes of painting in general, into a series of readily evident steps, each one revealing the methodical construction of the whole. (Nate Lee)
Through May 18 at Scott Projects, 1542 N Milwaukee Ave #3, by appointment.