Press Release

During July and August the George Adams Gallery will present an exhibition of new large-scale paintings by James Barsness. The exhibition will feature five paintings from the past year, all focused on the foibles and failings of "civilized" society.

As in his previous work, Barsness continues to draw and paint over found paper - chinese takeout menus, dress patterns, handbills, etc - laid down on canvas. The images are first drawn in ballpoint and then painted in acrylic wash; frequently the surface is abraided with sandpaper. The finished works combine cartoon motifs and collage to make references to the history of art as well as to contemporary events, and result in complex, seemingly stream-of-consciousness allegories of human nature.

For example, the background for An Abridged History of the Civilized World, 2000, consists of thin paper wrappers from a Chinese restaurant over which the central image - a hill teeming with a  menagerie that brings to mind both Disney and Hieronymus Bosch. The various characters - animals, humans both - are engaged in activities that depict man's sad tendency to take some significant invention or discovery  (fire, the wheel, speech, even family planning) and put it to the basest use. Fire, for example, is used to give a hot foot, speech for gossip, while family planning degenerates into genocide.  In another work in the show, The Struggle to Regain Consciousness, 2001, Barsness depicts a world populated by mutants. For example, there is a man with a duck's head and lobster claws for arms, a dog with a peacock's tail, and a cetipede with a rhinoceros's head, all linked by a red cord. In fact, the painting is an elaborate lesson in life on Earth as we know it for the inhabitants energetically attempt to devour each other despite the fact that they share, literally, a common bond.

Other works in the exhibition include Study for The Struggle to Regain Consciousness, Jim the Dragon, and The King of Categories.

Exhibition Checklist

1. Pocouacomo, 2001
acrylic, ink on paper mounted on canvas
47 1/4 x 60 1/4 inches
JBARp 33

2. Study for The Struggle To Regain Consciousness, 2001
acrylic, ink on paper mounted on canvas
63 1/4 x 82 inches
JBARp 29

3. The Struggle to Regain Consciousness, 2001
acrylic, ink on paper mounted on canvas
69 1/4 x 86 inches
JBARp 31

4. An Abridged History of the Civilized World, 2000
acrylic, ink, collage on canvas
68 x 93 1/2 inches
JBARp 28

5. The Usual Difficulties, 1995
acrylic, ink, gold leaf on paper mounted on canvas
74 x 55 3/8 inches
JBARp 26

6. Jim the Dragon, 2001
acrylic, ink, paper, gold leaf on canvas
71 x 93 inches
JBARp 30

7. The Serpent of Midgaard, 2000
etching and aquatint with chine colle
edition of 20
24 x 29 1/2 inches
JBAR 01.01