Highbrow meets lowbrow.
That can be a glib yet effective way of way of describing the work of Jay Giroux -- an artist with a background in skate and street culture who holds an MFA in painting from the University of Houston.
The Brooklyn artist's first solo show at Devin Borden Gallery, titled "Ideas Are Free," explores that dynamic as he marries aspects of pop culture with high formalism. Indeed, the first piece you encounter, Skate Stopped Pedestal, is comprised of a wooden pedestal topped by aluminum "skatestoppers" -- brackets meant to deter skateboarders from skating on curbs or handrails by eliminating a smooth surface. It's as minimal as they come, yet loaded with references.
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Beyond this sculpture, paintings comprise the bulk of the show, and Giroux experiments with acrylic, wax, oil, enamel and color pencil in his colorful, layered works -- some of which are just about color. The four squares C, M, Y, and K comprise a tetraptych that is based on the color model used in printing -- cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (or black) -- and are arranged in a column. Collect all four!
Other works aren't as neat. Monster Girls (Wax Atmosphere) and Monster Girls (Neon Lights) are messy, busy paintings that leave hints of what's below the surface -- blonde girls with sunglasses -- as if it's a street advertisement layered in graffiti. Works like Stay Focused and Hard in the Paint follow in this loud street art aesthetic -- spray cans and all.
But then you have something completely out of left field like Untitled (Target in Red, Yellow, and Blue) -- a bruised, bullied canvas that has literal markings on it -- gaping holes and punctures that are surrounded by mostly red, with hints of the title's yellow and blue. It's quite beautiful, in a quiet way. For all the attempts to nail him down, Giroux isn't content to do just one thing.
"Jay Giroux: Ideas Are Free" at Devin Borden Gallery, 3917 Main Street, runs now through August 3. 713-256-0225. For more information, call or visit www.devinborden.com.