Looking at Jonathan Faber's new work up at David Shelton Gallery, I see faces looking back at me. As with some Rorschach test that replaces black and white for neon colors and blots for primal geometric shapes, I can't help but see faces.
In Surface, there are sleepy, swollen eyes, a light black stroke for a nose and a thin zigzag for a mouth. In Broadcast, the image of a face is less apparent, but there appear to be the makings of a green skull with jagged lines for teeth.
Whether or not you see faces, you'll surely be striving to find something familiar in these abstract pieces. (Is that a sail in Blanket?) The Austin artist has a history of creating works that are intentionally ambiguous, based off of slippery memories of boating trips, his childhood home, Vermont stays and whatever else is buried there.
Several of the works, in fact, seem indicative of a place. Wake looks like some sort of marshland, inhabited by an ominous aqua-blue specter waiting in the reeds. Segment is surprisingly restrained, compared to his busier works. There's what appears to be a sewage pipe, spouting toxic water, and black blobs that look like scrambled Mickey Mouse ears. The painting has an unfinished quality, with black marks floating off into the distance. It's open-ended.
The majority of these works are oil paintings, though Faber also has little studies in pastels. These seem less indicative of a certain place or landscape, like in Bouquet. As the name promises, there are images of flowers, however faint. They are floating, delicate imprints that are surrounded by harsh, crude lines of stripes and triangles. The bouquet is almost an afterthought.
With this latest work, Faber continues to toe this line between figurative and abstract art, though it's one that's increasingly getting blurred. There's more guesswork involved, and not knowing. That can be challenging, but Faber leaves just enough clues to keep you in the game.
"Jonathan Faber: Surface" at David Shelton Gallery, 3909 Main, runs now through January 5. For more information, call 832-538-0924 or visit davidsheltongallery.com.
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