“Pure Pictures, Perfect Prints,” Aron Gent’s solo exhibition at Devening Projects + Editions, is immediately pleasant, with its ample white space and idiosyncratic chintz of flowers, leaves, printers and arabesques, all rendered in a subdued palette. These images, culled from clip-art collections, are composed and then printed onto an ink-resistant material. This printout is then transferred onto watercolor paper by press, which squeezes and drags the beaded ink into the perfect drips that tress the features of each composition. Such painterly distortions give the sense of an individual hand at work, but of course, it is anything but. These gestures are dictated by blunt forces: the irregular texture of paper, the volume and viscosity of the ink, the magnitude and direction of the pressure exerted by the press.
A skepticism of authorship, individuality and authenticity exists not just on the surface of the work, but is enfolded throughout. The clip art is perhaps drawn from life, perhaps from photos, perhaps imagined, working from archetypes. It is all drawn by someone else. Gent arranges these motifs, transferred by the printer, and transferred yet again by the printing press, warping at every turn. Through this process of refraction, Gent’s monoprints distance viewers from the source material in order to reveal how thoroughly processed our experience of the world is, how there is not always a real truth to get at. This is not new territory conceptually; still, Gent deals in it cogently.
As a wink, Gent features images of printers in many of the prints. His purely geometric pieces seem to point to the distorting effects of optics. Their lines and shapes form interference patterns, changing color or disappearing at points of overlap in analogy to the way that two waves of light can either cancel or amplify one another. The conceit is writ large: that the truth literally drips with our own inescapable need to process it, which is, by definition, to reflect, to refract, and to distort it. However skeptical, though, the work is not cynical. It’s cheerful and self-accepting and, with its depictions of autumn leaves and grinning jack-o-lanterns, seasonal! (Christopher Backs)
Through December 6 at Devening Projects, 3039 West Carroll.