Painting can be a lot of things:  colorful, resilient, meaningful, puzzling at times and extremely personal.  But it is seldom boring. The signs, symbols, images and colors on a flat surface hold our attention and at moments have us at a dazzling balance between our emotions and our reason. 

Discussions can be sparked and open up new perspectives that maybe otherwise go unrealized. Never shying away from conversation, a new show, Various States by Jeff King, at Gallery 72 is all about painting’s complexities and the use of rich colors with non-apologetic brushstrokes. 

King’s new show focuses on beauty or at least the deconstruction of what beauty is.  The images are quite haunting and can cause the viewer to shutter in disbelief.  Beauty is not so much a “thing” as it is an understanding. And King is occupied here with this misconception.

“I chose to paint women. These paintings are a representation of how much I find something attractive in destroying the concept of beauty.”

The grittiness of the show can be misunderstood. There is such deep meaning to the pieces that on closer inspection the viewer can see the beauty within the work.  The small details in the portrait “Various States 1” show how embellishments can add the beauty we all desire. The piece is painted on a light blue background with a gaze that is awash with non-emotion. The difference is the star adornment in her hair.

 “Personality to me is more important than whatever you happen to be contained in,” King said. “I am going to say maybe it’s primarily important to stop thinking about beauty of body, but the beauty of a person’s mind and ways. Seems like a lot of people get lost somewhere in between these things.”

In “Various States 3” the viewer can see how King destroys the common concept of beauty.  Painted on a vividly green background the female figure stares blankly out with a grayish-blue eerie gaze. The inky black hair is receding on her forehead and her dark pink lips are smeared on her face giving her a garish appearance. The viewer can make out the facial features, but there is little detail other than the heavy brush strokes.

“My ideas are based on mistaken things that happened,” he said. “I then try to exploit the same mistake in some way. Also I destroy or deface my art. This is a carrying out of the mistake. I don’t think about how to make art…I just make it. My process is a continuous improvisation.”

 In “Various States 5” King’s adds a note of variety as well to his aesthetic as he applies an expressionistically different tone with this piece.  The cobalt blue background interacts well with the female portrait. Her one dark eye follows the viewer while the other eye has been painted over. 

This painting is rich in detail, and its soft brown and coral tones have a calming tone to it. Her hair is shoulder length and rich in various brown shades. Her lips are gorgeous and painted meticulously with a slight smile.

“The structure of the strengths of my work varies by the styles,” King explains, “and my feeling is that the strongest aspect is that I want to work in many styles. I become bored and try to avoid the boredom. “

From one canvas to another, the balance between generously applied paint and female images shifts back and forth. Some are almost inexplicably haunting in darkness while others are an abstraction of what exquisiteness is. 

There is such a juxtaposition in this imagery that it causes us to take a closer look at the true nature of beauty and its importance in our culture today. Various States makes us internalize our own experiences with this. And King expresses this well both in thought and deed.

“With the show in question. …I’m trying to say that people should shake the foundation of the notion of beauty and stop disregarding the things that they don’t understand. 

If art has taught me anything, it is that it is harder to be perfect than to simply be what you are. Paintings are no different.”

Various States continues through May 31, 2014 at Gallery 72, 1806 Vinton Street, 402.496.4747,

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