It’s seemingly impossible to define “art” with a simple explanation—it spans such a wide variety of mediums, perspectives, intentions, and aesthetics. But if there is one concept of art that most people can agree on, and as Nina Simone once said, “An artist’s duty is to reflect the times.” It’s an open-ended definition that leaves room for interpretation, and is a fitting characterization for artist James Evans’ first solo show, Salad Daze, currently on view at Chinatown Soup Gallery.
Over the last few years, it’s been impossible to escape the constant news reports and social media posts of tragic, heartbreaking events in our own country and around the world. From the numerous police shootings of black men and women and the random acts of mass violence to the hateful rhetoric being used in the current election cycle, the violence often feels inescapable. But what is it that leads to these acts of aggression? What has been ingrained in our minds that those are our reactions? It is these important—and complicated—questions of consciousness, or lack thereof, that James sought to explore in the exhibition.
His latest paintings move away from the graphic design-based approach of James' previous work and take on a more fluid and spontaneous, though no less detailed, style. Some of the subject matter is explicit, like the arrest depicted in “Boys of Summer II,” while other works examine related concepts, from our obsession with Photoshopped perfection and constant sexualization to undercurrent of machismo that runs through our culture.
“There are so many issues we don’t know how to deal with and we often ignore the deep-rooted history behind them,” James' says of his inspiration. And while he doesn’t seek to answer these questions, his visual exploration offers food for thought. “Salad Days” is a reference to youthful idealism that dates back to the time of Shakespeare but was given new meaning by punk bands in the ‘80s. The name serves to balance out the weighty issues that he examines, and offers a sense of optimism—where there’s awareness, there’s hope for change.
Salad Daze is open from October 13th - 20th at Chinatown Soup Gallery (16 Orchard Street).