The sizes and shapes of Cody Tumblin’s paintings in “Tell Tale” resemble those of books, albeit ones with beautiful covers. Most have in fact been made to fit the dimensions of meaningful books in the artist’s personal collection. The biblio theme extends to many of the dyed and painted pieces in Tumblin’s show, from bands of color on the left side of the paintings approximating binding to the smaller works leaning on shelves as if on display in a store.
Some of the most striking pieces follow this theme. “Folding the Evening Together” is like a half-finished composition notebook cover, a stitched black band on the left contrasts with uneven red spots. Some spots are clearly defined and others are fainter, illustrating the artist’s process of stretching one piece over another, working on the surface, and then removing the top layer to reveal what has bled through. Nearby, magenta and green stripes are laid over a black and red rectangle in the not-quite-white, hand-dyed cotton canvas “Tears that Fall Behind the Curtain.” The SAIC graduate’s background in graphic design is apparent here in the studied composition of color and shapes.
The show’s centerpiece, “Probably Gonna Roll on Through,” focuses on four large, brightly colored spots, bordered by black spots that don’t quite make it onto the canvas. The canvas has been stitched together diagonally, horizontally and vertically, with the seams facing us. The resulting pattern makes the image more complex, but the symmetry in the stitching helps unify the piece aesthetically.
The artist’s hand is present in many aspects of Tumblin’s work, not just in his brushstroke. In fact the artists’ edition for this exhibition is a series of art-handling gloves dyed using colors from the pieces. From his decision to hand-dye canvases to the visible stitching, the paintings share many qualities with hand-made artist’s books. In this way gallery visitors are invited to not just look at the work, but to read it, searching for symbols in the composition, as a reader would explicate a favorite passage to get a deeper meaning. (Kerry Cardoza)
Through April 18 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 West Carroll