Trevor Shimizu: Land/Time

West Barn

August 12-September 12, 2023

The Ranch is pleased to announce Land/Time, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Trevor Shimizu. Presenting several bodies of work, the exhibition explores the durational logic of memory––how it persists, shifts, and turns in on itself over time. Through the thorny terrain of remembrance lost and gained, Shimizu depicts worlds beyond eye’s reach. Isolated from the changing garden just outside his studio walls, the artist paints landscapes without immediate reference. Instead, he hypostatizes the flickering images that recur in his mind, fixing them with an ebbing impermanence.

Catalyzed by the abrupt shift in his environment after decamping from the city to a town along the Hudson River, Shimizu has recently begun working in the landscape genre in earnest. Here, the daily developments of his home garden and the altering sightline across the river prompted his own musings on the valley. Unlike artists of the Hudson River School, he does not chase mimetic exactitude. The slippage of precise representation and the intruding traces of elsewhere are welcome. He frequently deploys superimposition to create a sensation of an engram––the brain’s ability to see two stored memories at once. Layered images sometimes skirt by undetected, where a hazy passage feels like a particularly rich marinade. These bucolic atmospheres are absorptive enough to simply enjoy without dissection, but when regarded incisively reveal that part of their charm rests in their imaginary constructions.

Formally, Shimizu builds impossible environments. A tide pool appears where geologically implausible. Dashes of dark indigo relate the sensation of seeing pine and apple trees from a moving car, with these blurred marks seeping into a scene of the Hudson Valley in Marine Research Center (2023). Indeed, while some landscapes are born from observations made on walks taken mere minutes before entering the studio, others reach back decades to his childhood excursions on the Pacific Northwest coastline. Perhaps the most emphatic departure from Impressionism (the movement to which these are most frequently compared) is precisely the degree to which Shimizu’s paintings abstract from nature––allowing room for the persuasive sway of memory, artistic impulse, and optical instability.

Still, Shimizu is more conspicuous about these visual interjections in several compositions. In Apata, Diplo (2023), for instance, a pair of dinosaurs traipse over a marsh-like landscape. Crudely sketched with quick strokes of green, the extinct reptiles blend in with the foggy background (nearly indiscernible on a cursory glance). Yet, the allusion to pre-historic time is direct: the same landscapes we annex and claim as our own have overseen millennia of history. In addition to these sweeping mythopoetic insights, there’s also personal sentiment underfoot. The rudimentary figures recollect nearby paintings made after his children’s doodles and cave painting alike. In this, Shimizu notes how far away the first years with his children feel. Shimizu himself has occupied many creative roles––as musician, nightlife photographer, archivist, even a painter of a more didactically conceptual variety. All the while, these works seem skeptical of rigid demarcations of time and era. Settling on the shoulder seasons of our lives, or the unsure period between fall and winter, what these paintings seem to tell us is aptly phrased by Culture Club: “Time won’t give me time.”

Shimizu’s efforts to stabilize the past and trick linear time into behaving cyclically began to percolate just after becoming a father. There are odes to his children’s developmental progress in this exhibition, painted enlargements of his daughter and son’s juvenilia drawings that monumentalize their early artistic endeavors. Not only does the artist save and store his children’s artwork, but he also turns to them as objects of study and prompts for further artistic production. Though this series bleeds into the deskilled aesthetic of Art Brut, rhyming with the schematic treatments of the human form common to the strain of European modernism, these maintain the innocent ambitions of childhood art. Jack (2023) portrays the character Jack Skellington, the protagonist of Tim Burton’s film The Nightmare Before Christmas. A spirit in the realm of the living, Skellington embodies the temporal ambiguity broached by Shimizu’s investigation into time’s rambling pathways.

For Shimizu, observing his children’s gravitational pull to depict favorite creatures and cartoons has impacted his own theories about subject. Throughout his career, the artist adopted various “personas” which guided his source material and produced cohesive bodies of work from a clear subject position. At the present hour, Shimizu says that his enduring identity is “dad.” In Goldie’s Drawing (1) (2019) and Goldie’s Drawing (2) (2019), he signs his daughter’s drawing with his name at the bottom of the canvas, parodying the proud dad trope but also not denying its validity. Shimizu sees his archive fever as a natural result of parenting and an additive to his work. Adolescent maturation operates on its own timeclock; stages lag, stall, and evaporate without conventional standardization. These ideas serve as a flashpoint for the way time meanders in his landscape paintings as well. Features of the natural world spring forth or recede depending on their enduring force in the artist’s memory––at a given moment, in a particular place.

––Megan Kincaid

TREVOR SHIMIZU (b. 1978, California) lives and works in New York. He has had solo exhibitions at La Maison de Rendez-Vous, Brussels (2022); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2020); Kunsthalle Lissabon, Portugal (2019); 47 Canal, New York; Galerie Christine Mayer, Munich; The Green Gallery, Milwaukee; Misako & Rosen, Tokyo; the Rowhouse Project, Baltimore (2015); and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2013), among others. He has participated in group exhibitions at Stuart Shave Modern Art, London (2023); White Columns, New York (2015, 2011); the Whitney Biennial, New York (2014); and the Queens Museum of Art, New York (2012). Shimizu’s work is also included in public collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit; K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; and High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

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