California-based painters Greg Gong and Jon Pestoni have, through unifying abstract forms over a variety of ground materials and techniques, developed complementary methods that result in layered, petrified paint. They do well to show together as the stakes over which they struggle are not only a work’s surface but what physically lies beneath.
The majority of the pieces in what is Gong’s first commercial gallery show begin in a series of scrawled, modeled circles rising like rifts through subsequent layers of paint on moderate sized board. Contrasting blacks, yellows and blues bounce off these ridges and edges, which are sometimes sanded down to reveal previous applications. The energy in what must have begun as frenetic ovoid arm strokes is tempered into the interlocking layers of paint resulting in distressed and heavy all-over compositions.
Pestoni’s paintings, in a new development of materials for the established artist, achieve their unique textural qualities through the administration of paper, cold wax medium and cat litter onto monolithic boards. The paper and litter bubble up at semi-regular islands and join with veins of medium to interrupt the long vertical strokes of color on top. The works have a worn look as if coagulated upon the wall of a cave, a notion subtly reinforced by the handprints in “How To.” Having noted a growing trend of using glitter in painting, Pestoni questions how reflective elements sabotage thoughtful arrangements on a picture plane, instead opting to use granules of cat litter to achieve an absorptive texture that doubles as a sardonic homage to the sand used by Picasso or Dubuffet.
Against a current climate of glossily reflective paintings with meticulous edges, Gong and Pestoni present a roundabout, rougher route to creating a seductive surface. Though carefully arranged, marks upon former marks invite immersed contemplation in the variations of Pestoni’s earthy matteness and Gong’s swirling struggle. In both cases there is a frank disclosure of time and method that emphasizes painting as a deliberate, ruminative process relatable to life in a world where wit and sheen are on trend. (Nick Knowlton)
Through August 16 at Shane Campbell Gallery, 673 North Milwaukee.