Karma is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Dike Blair. Having begun his pictures of quotidian (mostly)-American scenes in the 1980s, Blair has only in the last few years painted them in oil. Working on panels, Blair’s photorealistic tableaus emanate from his own photographs. A modern-day flâneur, capturing unexceptional observations of a day.
Blair’s is a kind of neorealism, which does not portray people in any sort of overt manner. He, however, offers a protagonists sight, a point-of-view angle, which only contains the ghost of a human presence—a ring stain from a cup, a half eaten donut, fingerprints on a door or a lit cigarette.
Reality is the basic and dominating visual experience. All the things we see and touch are particular and qualifiable. They have a physical existence, which we observe and store. Blair’s scenes use a kind of detached mode of representation, where our author doesn’t project the entire picture but instead gives us an interrupted narrative—the beginning or maybe somewhere in the middle of a longer sequence—which we can fill-in the gaps to, if we so choose.
As Helen Molesworth writes in Blair’s new monograph “Every scene he paints—the waiting areas of airports, bars, the too-harsh incandescent light on the outdoor plants at night, the blue sky out of a plane window, the seams of windows that frame the view from the bed and leave us just a glimpse of the treetops, the bare fluorescent bulbs on the ceiling—is generic. There is nothing here we haven’t already seen. Novelty is not what is at stake; familiarity is.”
Through familiarity, his pictures present fragmented memories. Situations in which we can misplace nostalgia, where we can see the habit of our observations, the things we take notice of each day, where we question the faithfulness of our ability to reproduce the visual information we’ve accumulated.
Over the years Blair has repeatedly addressed the same subjects—not necessarily out of preoccupation but to explore formal concerns and possibilities of color, light, texture and space. A view out of a window catches a glimpse of a blue sky and a shadow cast by a nearby structure which is out of frame; a cup on a countertop, reflecting the cup and the camera’s flash; the pink of hydrangeas and the green of leaves against a backdrop of shadowy night.
Karma has published a new comprehensive monograph of Blair’s oil paintings from the last several years, which includes a newly written text by Helen Molesworth.
Dike Blair (b. 1952) attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1977) and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (1976). He was recently the subject of a one-person exhibition at the Secession in Vienna (2016) and was included in a group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018). Blair is in the collections of the Whitney Museum, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, among others.