Justin Bower ‘Embedded’ Exhibition at Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills, CA runs through December 2010. See it while you can.
Justin Bower’s portraits combine succulent impasto brushwork with a Neo-Baroque sensibility folded into the aesthetic of the pixilated computer screen. Exuding jarring anxious energy, his vivid, large-scale, oil on canvas paintings are full frontal close-up, anonymized faces, based on one hijacked image from a social networking website such as Facebook or MySpace.
Interested in the instability and turbulent nature of subjectivity today, particularly mediated through computer screens, he paints oil on canvas permutations of one specific photographic image, affected and infected with the tropes of our contemporary reproduction technologies. His paintings reflect subjectivity today: mediated, indefinite, and in a perpetual state of boundless flux and transformation.
Through the use of a hyper-saturated color palette Bower weaves synthetic colors into the organic body retaining a naturalness of flesh while suggesting an artificial origin, fusing the object and subject, showing that our own images have become objects of manipulation. He conflates the function of skin and flesh as a boundary between biological interiority and externalized technologies. In these paintings, there is a consistent breaching between the borders of physicality in the figurative and abstraction: conscious of Francis Bacon’s legacy and Jenny Saville’s use of oil paint to depict voluptuous flesh, a substitute for the sensual human form. Bower’s intent is to show that subjectivity today plays with the boundaries that separate the organic/synthetic, human/non human, interiority/exteriority, self/other and finally between abstraction and the figurative.
Choosing an anonymous as well as androgynous face found on the internet, Bower reinterprets the image in each of his paintings, distorting any individual identity; the multiplicity and endless variation of the distorted facial image confuses an authentic origin, reaffirming the tension between the digital image and actual subject (real world counterpoint). But at the same time, his intervention frees the connection and enables the artist to see the image as a free-floating signifier. Bower focuses upon two distinct areas of subject formation and de-formation. The first is a specific digital reference, the code through which these subjects emerge, are infected by, disintegrate and finally rest in their identity flux.