Friday, April 24, 2009

brothers grim

We've heard the many examples from art history of works begun by one artist and completed by another - usually the case being that of master and student, like Giorgione and Titian, Viani and Cavazza, Giovanni and Belliniano, etc. In these cases, however, you find the student emulates the style of the master, completing the piece in what presumably was the original artist's vision and aesthetic. In other examples of group paintings, the mashup of unique styles leaves the resulting piece looking more like the remains of a food fight than a composition.

The work of the Clayton Brothers certainly is a great exception. Rob and Christian Clayton create pieces together that share a multidimensional voice and point of view. While the works embody the unique styles of Rob and Christian, the end result...just frankly works. While it certainly helps that both brothers are working in a psychedelic, surrealist style that allows for a variety of images and patterns to hang well together, there's something to be said for their unspoken understanding of the harmony and balance of their canvases. While the pieces are heavily layered and thick with detail that's both objective and decorative, neither artist appears to be attempting to 'dominate' the other. There's a clear perspectival plane and central image or theme that the brothers build together without using up the canvas for the sake of diffusing the others voice:
"The concept of symbiosis resonates through every aspect of their paintings and installations. In a practice devoid of ego and restraint, the Clayton brothers develop intense compacted narratives on an intuitive basis. Rob and Christian Clayton seldom work on the same canvas at the same time, or discuss of their projects during making. Playing off their unspoken synergy, they take turns inventing, adding to, and editing each piece, propelling their ‘stories’ through spontaneous improvisation. Entwining their independent approaches, styles, and palettes, their works operate as co-authored epics, fusing the concept of self with the communal."

There's something at once dark, snarky and celebratory about the brothers' work, which creates a dynamic and complex narrative on their canvases. Often in grisly states, they include the animate and inanimate - both somehow frozen in place and devoid of any expressive emotion, while great lines of movement and ecstatic splashes of color seem to imply a passing of time around these figures. The brothers include familiar imagery from their worlds, like branded products that indicate themes of consumerism and perhaps commentary on advertising as these objects also are somewhat lifeless and hollow, though contain designs and flourishes around them so as to bring attention and energy to their existence.

The brothers both received their BFA's from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where they now both hold faculty positions. Their work has been exhibited in notable shows throughout the world, including The Armory Show in New York, Art Basel in Miami and the The Royal Academy in London. To see more from the Clayton Brothers, visit their website.

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