Evan Sebastian Lagache is an incredible painter. His emotional understanding of color and capacity to manipulate line are adept. However, I would argue that his greatest strength is objectivity. He is able to detach from his experiences and view them in respect to his relationships with people, the earth beneath him, and the universe beyond him. He sees the mechanisms beneath city living and understands how their geometry influences social behavior. He explores the physical matter of energy, sounds, and interactions. I call it objectivity; others may wonder if Lagache can slide straight through dimensions and experience our world from a different plane.
His exhibition at 326 Gallery opened several weeks ago and has just been extended through December 11th. “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying” is a 2-person show featuring work by Evan Sebastian Lagache and Shay Kun. As I came to discover “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying” through an interest in Lagache, I will be focusing on his work for the purposes of this analysis.
I would liken his solo oeuvre to a collection of stories rather than individual paintings. The first ‘story’ that caught my eye was a group of paintings characterized by a mesmerizing dripping-grid motif. Digital Overdose, Intergalactic Wilfires, and Deep Blue were all painted on the same day in Washington Square Park. Take a look:
The three paintings are tied together visually by the presence of thin, spindly grids. These grids feel mechanical in that their lines bend at curved 90-degree angles. They resemble a psychedelic New York City subway map, with each section representing a different train line. One could be the BDFM line, which runs straight until it hits West 4th, then curves East until Broadway Lafayette. While the series is not a 1:1 allegory for New York public transportation, it was painted during a time that Lagache was experimenting with “motherboard patterns, digital patterns, & map patterns.”
Perhaps the association with the subway is the most obvious cognitive jump to make. Lagache speaks of examining the city from different perspectives, at different proximities to people and objects. The subway is the most tangible, yet invisible, mechanism organizing the city. But what about what is beneath the manmade tunnels of the New York subway? Forget beneath– what about what is within, inside and through our day-to-day lives? In what dimension does a feeling exist? Lagache’s grids are maps of the city’s energy; they mark the vibrations of New York City.
I believe this is why the artist’s paintings induce a synesthesia-like effect in the viewer. We are not accustomed to seeing a concept that is usually felt. The experience of looking at Digital Overdose, Intergalactic Wildfires, and Deep Blue is one of tremendous heat and vibration. In Digital Overdose, the smoldering lower half of the painting emits warmth. The dinstictive colors from the rest of the canvas converge here in a cloud of dense smoke, achieved through Lagache’s use of textural brushstrokes and blended color.
In Intergalactic Wildfires, the burnt-out patches of lined paper pasted into the work are the nucleus of this heat. Against a beautiful shade of turquoise these burnt patches fume like gaseous black holes.
Deep Blue feels to me like the personification of friction. There are several overlapping layers of grids in this work: blue, gold, lavender, and maroon. Lagache understands how combinations of colors, like mixtures of elements, can cause chemical reactions. As a follower of color theory, he recognizes that different colors affect people’s emotions in varied ways. He is also perceptive to which colors people are exposed to most frequently. Blue finds its way into many of his paintings, and is particularly prevalent in this series. “I think that’s the one color that resonates through every day,” Lagache says. “The sky, the water- well water is clear, but we experience it as blue.” The ubiquity of blue in Deep Blue lends it a strong emotional charge. As viewers, we attach our strong associations with the color to Lagache’s paintings and experience them intensely. For the artist, this means that his own emotional connection to the work is multiplied when he paints with blue.
Lagache’s choice of color in Deep Blue motivates his grids to churn together, releasing electricity and heat through friction. Mauve intensifies turquoise with its coolness, and maroon electrifies mauve with its surprising earthy darkness.
It is fitting that Lagache’s synesthetic paintings of city energy were painted in Washington Square Park. He was inspired by the sounds and sensations he says permeate the space. “It had to do a lot with the theory of sounds and the collision of energy,” he says. “Sounds, conversation, the jazz band playing, the homeless people begging, coins jingling.”
Just like circuits need a power source, the New York grid has to have hot spots that jumpstart the energy flowing through the city. Washington Square Park is one such location. “Anybody in the city who’s feeling creative somehow ends up there,” Lagache says. “I think it’s the shape of the park. There’s an entrance from every corner… you can get to it from any angle. And you come from down fifth avenue, so it’s a gateway into lower Manhattan.” He went on to explain that the fountain within the park is also special because it’s a “circle within a cube.” Something about this geometry is ultimately quite freeing- it resulted in the painting of Digital Overdose, Intergalactic Wildfires, and Deep Blue.
Though the three works share a common theme and were created from the same burst of inspiration, they represent different aspects of “the grid.” Deep Blue is the most overarching, demonstrating the motherboard we all reside within. Lagache intended Digital Overdose to illustrate human dependence upon the grid through technology, most notably, smart phones. An experience riding the subway one day inspired the artist. He noticed that every single person in his train car was wearing headphones, and that their faces were completely emotionless. “Like total drones,” he recalls. Intergalactic Wildfires completes the trifecta. It demonstrates the city on fire, and its inhabitants being consumed by flames. It leaves me to wonder: are we even aware of our own combustion?
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The closing reception for “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying” will be held at 326 Gallery on December 11th, from 6:30-8:30pm. Serious inquiries are invited to attend. Please email email@example.com to RSVP.
Until next time!