J. Johnson Gallery in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, stands just about a block from the salty shores of the Atlantic. This proximity complements the nature of the 20 turbulent paintings exhibited in Leslie Wayne: Paint Tectonics, on view September 20–November 1.
Media or genre exclusivity is hard to come by these days. Exhibitions such as Paint Things (January 27–April 21, 2013) at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum and Phantom Limb: Approaches to Painting Today (May 5–October 21, 2012) at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago have brought together artists working through resuscitated painting traditions to rebrand process, materiality, and form in ways that are not easily labeled. Although Wayne’s shaped panels ornamented with heavily layered, scraped, manipulated, and re-formed paint may, with quick judgment, be chalked up to this current painting trajectory, instead they are more so the unbridled and passionate outcome of primarily fetishizing pure paint. Thus, they assert their painterliness, which is not easily swayed by alternative activities or even genres.
Wayne’s paintings are dramatically presented within the large (7,000-square-foot) gallery space. This dramatic presentation makes the physical folds, layers, and extrusions of her work appear to be in motion, and the compression of mere gravity could soon be too much, forcing the paint to bubble out or spill off the edges of her surfaces. Given her color choices, the paint embodies an acidic threat, much like the Sherwin Williams logo that reads, “Cover the Earth” as paint is enveloping the world. Through abstract representations of various scales she uses a vibrant palette in which geographic, thick layers of manipulated paint come to symbolize real environmental threats, as well as mystifying earthen formations. Although Wayne is a New York-based artist by way of California, her paintings, derivative of landscapes, access a common ground, but her emotional gestures and labored surfaces encourage the viewer to accept an alternative take on the sublime intensity of nature.