For Van Hanos’ first exhibition in London, the Marfa-based artist presents a series of new paintings, focusing exclusively, for the first time, on experimental figuration. In Hanos’ ever-evolving practice, each exhibition is an extension from his previous body of work; his last presentation in New York (Conditional Bloom at Lisson Gallery, 2021) focused on multifarious abstractions of form, whereas now the artist applies himself to expanding our perception of the medium and traditions around figurative painting. In this new series, we see Hanos thinking about painting in a different way, liberating his and our own understanding of allegory and image, considering what makes portraiture a portrait, rather than just an illustration of a figure. Some paintings are intentionally conceived as portraits – formed through a deep and deliberate affection to capture the likeness of the person – whereas others are painted as symbols or vehicles for narratives.
Entitled Twin, the premise was born from a conversation between Hanos and his twin brother, sharing his initial vision for the gallery space, thinking of the trapezoid-like spaces as a pair, as well as marking this as the painter’s second exhibition with Lisson. The notion of twin, rather than twins, also encourages reflections on the self, the singularity in the pair, which Hanos used as a springboard to explore with mirrors and echoes, focusing on the creation of images from other images. Twins (all works 2022) is one painting in the exhibition (inspired by Sam Potthoff, 1979), depicting two sets of eyes in a black void.
These eyes represent babies in the womb, with the dark background suggesting a body. Alongside this is
Doppelganger, featuring nudes in a landscape, based on a photograph taken at a natural spring in Agua Fria in the Whistler Mesa region near the border of Mexico. Projecting this image onto his yard, Hanos then lured a collection of wild creatures to the scene. This multi-layered, dense approach reveals how Hanos often approaches his work: superimposing ideas to create a new existence, one that is based on real people and places yet physically and digitally manufactured – making it both reality and fantasy.
Other works in the exhibition include (Diana And Beau) The Archer, two candid, tender figures that together create the shape of an arrow, serving as a contemporary personification of the goddess, Artemis; and Offering, presenting a woman in water below a pair of male twins modelled in sync – the setting inspired by pre-historic sites in The Lower Pecos Canyonlands in Marfa. Here, one of the male twins offers a small figure perched in his hand as a totem to the mountain, while the other gazes into the eyes of the mountain, as if depicting a waking dream.
Traditional portraits of two of Hanos’s closest friends are also presented: Portrait of Sam Salazar, which is itself a vignette of Marfa given the subject’s family lineage dates back to Marfa for c.10,000 years; and David, an intense, psychedelic portrait realised with the stylistic approach of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David (c.1501) in mind – the lightbulb replacing the stone, the Globe as the head of Goliath. Alongside this is Erin Erin Echo, the title referring to the Narcissus myth from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, the beautiful youth who rejected Echo and fell in love with his own reflection.
The exhibition also features a new ceramic glazed sculpture, Boy with Thorn, portraying a wounded young boy crying, his tears reincarnated as a fountain. Raining down tequila (a drink typically produced and packaged in ceramic vessels), the sculpture serves as a dark tragicomedy on the ripple effects of substance abuse.
A series of paintings in the upstairs galleries relate to the works presented below, as a fracture of the forms outlined in the larger works. If the larger paintings cycle through portraiture, allegory and the overlay of form, these smaller works feel like practice in process – academic sketches or studies where ideas are played out: depictions of thought.
Van Hanos, Twin, 16th November – 21st January 2023, 67 Lisson Street, London
Art Opening: 15th November, 6 – 8pm
About the artist
Van Hanos’s approach to painting is best defined by its stylistic freedom and forsaking of particular modes or methods. Ranging from landscape to portraiture, beyond categorization as either figuration or abstraction, his work navigates perceptual shifts and thematic rupture. Hanos explores the tremendous range of possibilities within the human mind and experience, and his paintings can be created as meticulous oil renderings of images taken from photographs, with technical precision and photographic tendencies, or as sublime, abstracted amalgamations of past observations and ruminations, replete with internal references to other paintings or past subjects, and layered with meaning. Hanos’s work always beckons the viewer to look closer — as what one first experiences is undoubtedly bound to shift upon continued investigation. Van Hanos (born 1979) currently lives and works in Marfa, Texas. He has a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD, USA (2001), and an MFA from the School of the Arts at Columbia University, New York, NY, USA (2010). Recent solo exhibitions include Interiors at Château Shatto, Los Angeles, CA, USA (2020); Mommy’s Boy at Cleopatra’s, New York, NY, USA (2017); Late American Paintings at Château Shatto, Los Angeles, CA, USA (2017); Awake At The Funeral at Tanya Leighton, Berlin, Germany (2017); Van Hanos at Parapet Real Humans, St. Louis, MO, USA (2017); Intercalaris at Rowhouse Project, Baltimore, MD, USA (2016); and Van Hanos at West Street Gallery,
New York, NY, USA (2011). Selected group exhibitions include A Cloth Over a Birdcage at Château Shatto, Los Angeles, CA, USA (2019); The Land That I Live In at Matthew Brown, Los Angeles, CA, USA (2019); Pine Barrens at Tanya Bonakdar, New York, NY, USA (2018); An Uncanny Likeness at Simon Lee Gallery, New York, NY, USA (2017); The Lazy Sunbathers at Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf, Germany (2015); The Ninth Season of The Artist’s Institute with Carolee Schneemann at The Artist’s Institute, New York, NY, USA (2015); and Call and Response at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, NY, USA (2015). Paintings by Hanos were featured in the group exhibition, The Rest, at Lisson Gallery New York from January – February 2019, and his work was the subject of a solo presentation at Lisson Gallery in East
Hampton in August 2020. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.