This section contains writing that wasn't published, but that I felt compelled to articulate anyways.
Van Hanos: Conditional Bloom @ Lisson Gallery, New York - July 2021
If the Olympics included painting, Van Hanos would medal in multiple events. Each of the many styles on display is expertly executed and none of them come up short in terms of difficulty. Beyond the impressive dexterity, the paintings in this show manifest many registers of pathos amid the material pleasure of paint. A series of small works depicts ghostly hands clapping, with some of them dissolving into echoing arcs of pallor. These enigmatic works resonate with an indistinct sadness. Pictures of hands will never make noise, but we can imagine the applause and wonder who it is for and whether it is tender or mocking.
A large work depicts a plein air painting class in garish primary colors with a vivid blue sky. The painting feels harsh and unfulfilling, despite the surplus of visual information it contains. An outstretched arm holds up a canvas that faces away from the viewer. I wondered if this narrative scene was meant to conjure vast archive of cliches and pitfalls that weigh down most entries into this crowded medium. Hanos obviously sustains his faith in the discipline, but doubt and death abound in the haunted moments that punctuate the show. A battered pickup truck sits in on the desert floor at night, a large and spooky canvas in with a vacant protagonist.
A crisply rendered agave plant, uprooted and on its side, sits amid a pleasing field of grey. Hanos depicts the complex form and texture of this plant with stunning level of skill, extremely precise blending that never feels tight. That the silhouette of this dead plant also resemble a duck adds humor to this quietly morose work. I left this show feeling that painting is a vital tool for exploring the emotional limits of the imagination. We need to continually recharge our symbols and recalibrate our perception, and paint remains a facile vehicle for this task. One of the more playful works in the show depicts a lit candle on top of a messy field of saturated colors scraped and smeared on the surface. The flame presents a moment of calm focus made from the same stuff as the chaos that surrounds it.