'Present Ghosts' at Survival Kit Gallery Opens This Friday

While you’re exploring 78th Street Studios during this week’s Third Friday open studios, be sure to stop by the third floor for Justin Brennan and Joshua Rex’s Present Ghosts, which opens with a reception Apr. 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Survival Kit.

“Joshua Rex and Justin Brennan portray visages of personal and external history in this two person exhibition featuring painting and mixed media works,” describes Survival Kit co-founder Alex Tapié. “Responses to versions of the past and everyday encounters are combined and blurred as both artists interpret their thoughts through an additive and subtractive collision of material. Eliciting imagery that creates chronological and psychological dissonance, Rex and Brennan depict the ghosts of people, places, and things that affect them on a regular basis.”

Justin Brennan’s work has evolved over the past several years towards pure abstraction, often completely removing any sign of clear imagery. He combines oil, acrylic, enamel and latex house paint with nontraditional media. The result is a more emotional and expressive composition that is as much felt as it is seen by the viewer.

“This body of work directly relates to relationships and interactions with others on a day-to-day basis,” adds Brennan. “Interactions with others and circumstances that develop all inspire me to paint, especially this particular series. The palette is a bit lighter and less dramatic than my previous work and more carefree and lighthearted. Although, there is a hint of darkness still prevalent throughout the paintings. There are groupings of distinctive shapes , forms and mark making in these paintings not seen in my previous work. These shapes and groupings all pertain to what and who is prevalent in my life at the moment. Subtraction of paint, layering, and use of mixed media have also been very important in this body of work.”

“I allow myself to be inspired by day-to-day relationship with others,” continues Brennan. “This group of paintings is a bit more buoyant and content than my previous work. I have been working with layering & scraping away excess paint while still drawing and mark making throughout. Above all, composition is most important to me.”

Joshua Rex’s work typically includes more imagery and visual representation than Brennan’s paintings. However, Rex’s expressive brushwork and the framing of his compositions help create cohesiveness throughout the exhibition. Rex’s use of imagery in this series resembles some kind of visual journal, as if the artist were trying to simultaneously document, understand and share the world around him.

“As a painter, I am interested in the insides of people/places/things, and most of all, their ghosts,” explains Rex. “History, anachronism, disposability, and expiration are the major themes in my work. My mediums are primarily gouache, acrylic on paper, with ink, pencil, tape and a bit of tea to round it off. The result is often something that looks pressed under the pages of a forgotten photo album.”

“The paintings included in the Present Ghosts show were made between 2011-12,” continues Rex. “I consider these to be inverted works, with the black/white/grey images coming from beneath like dust brushed off things long buried. My current work incorporates the same technique, though I'm now using tea instead of masking tape (as tape is not archival). I was interested in doing a show with Justin because of the seemingly mutual predilection for carving out black space in our work.”

Present Ghosts remains on view through June 19. The exhibition is free and open to the public during Third Friday open studios in April, May and June or by appointment.

(78th Street Studios) 1300 W. 78th St., 330-819-7280, 78thstreetstudios.com

(Survival Kit) Suite 303, 216-533-4885, survivalkitgallery.org