June 7-July 20
This story was featured in the June 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art June 2013 print issue, or get the Southwest Art June 2013 digital download now…Or better yet, just subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
Contemporary realism is the painting style that resonates in the heart of Steamboat Springs artist Gregory Block. In his solo show at Gallery 1261, which opens on June 7 with an artist’s reception from 5 to 8 p.m., the 26-year-old painter uses that style to explore the fascinating world of everyday objects. “For me, everything is fair game,” Block says. “I am less object-driven and more driven by visual qualities. The wrinkled skin of a piece of fruit is what draws me to paint, rather than the piece of fruit itself. Because of this, the objects that inspire me are limitless.”
Block’s show includes still-life paintings of objects with which he interacts on a daily basis. His teapot, wine glasses, dishes, and cutting board are part of carefully planned and executed works in oil. Occasionally he heads down to the local thrift store and peruses its inventory to find something new to paint. “What’s so interesting to me about objects is the many different ways they appear in different situations,” he says. “Under direct light, they look one way. In ambient light, they look an entirely different way. The same thing is true about positioning an object. Looking at an object at eye level is completely different from looking down at the same object.”
Most of the still-life paintings in the show are small in size: Many are 11 by 14 inches, and some are as tiny as 2 by 3 inches. Sharing the show with these intimate works is a series of landscapes that can be as large as 4 by 6 feet. All together, more than two dozen paintings are on exhibit. “I like pairing the small still-life paintings with the large landscapes,” he says. “I think the viewer easily jumps into the landscapes, walks around in them, and then is able to enter the smaller pieces.”
Block’s landscapes are inspired by his Steamboat Springs environment. He takes the same approach to painting a landscape as he does a still life. “I focus on the shapes in blades of grass and the patterns in rocks as they punctuate the placid surface of water,” he says. “My work is about colors and shapes.” Those elements became the dominant considerations in his work two years ago after Block had spent several years painting in an abstract-expressionist style. “Abstract art is about a heightened emphasis on colors and shapes,” he reflects. “What I learned from that experience is that two-dimensional art is all about colors and shapes, whether the colors and shapes are in faces or in objects.”
Block says time spent painting in an abstract style has altered his recent works in contemporary realism by making him more aware of all the spaces within the painting. “I used to focus primarily on the teapot or clove of garlic in a painting and not so much on other areas of the canvas,” he says. “Now I focus on the shapes within every inch of the paintings.” —Emily Van Cleve
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