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Ron Griffin: Forgotten Paper Opens in Santa Monica

SANTA MONICA, CA.-Tarryn Teresa Gallery is pleased to present new work by Los Angeles-based artist Ron Griffin. The exhibition consists of new paintings and never before seen drawings from the artist’s personal collection.

Ron Griffin is an unusually talented painter whose life is inextricably intertwined with his art. For most of his life, he has been sifting through abandoned trailers, homesteads, and the general discarded detritus of the Mojave Desert and making paintings of what he finds. These ephemeral paper objects – everything from photographs, cigarette packets and bureaucratic forms, to letters from convicts detailing seedy narratives - depict the lives and secrets of people living on the margins of society.

The representations of these objects are meticulously reproduced with paint, ink, pencil, and a lacquer-transfer process. They are then veiled by or within representations of file folders, vellum envelopes, or face down documents. Going a step further than mere hyperrealism, Griffin builds several layers of enamel to further create the illusion of the object in its three-dimensional state. Each object is rendered exactly on a crisp wooden panel, which the artist also fabricates, and despite their obvious trompe-l’oeil accomplishment, the paintings are more akin to abstraction than realism.

Griffin’s love and respect for the paper object is particularly evident in this show, as he is revealing some of his own secret paper objects - “forgotten” drawings - that have been hidden away for years. For Griffin, these works are particularly special, as they take his work to the next level insofar as they are works about paper on paper itself. His choice to display them in self-crafted wooden cabinets further illustrates his obsessive search for classification and analysis. The classification process is intrinsic to his entire body of work, both past and present, and showing the drawings in vitrines serves to highlight this important aspect of his work.

Originally painting on white surfaces and referencing branding, appropriation, consumerism and other Pop-Art influences, Griffin decided to move to black surfaces. The white surfaces did not always allow for the more illusive intricacies in his work to shine through, and according to Griffin, he wanted to “explore subtler, more complex relationships of many thin layers veiling layers”. This launched him on an adjunct series to his desert paintings – a series of images that explore the various permutations of folded paper toilet seat covers. The result resembles a snowstorm of translucent, geometric and anthropomorphic shapes, which are barely recognizable as what they truly are – paper from a public toilet. Griffin’s paintings and drawings differentiate themselves from the sometimes-banal pop-art depictions of every day objects. Possessing a weight that pop art often lacks, Griffin’s work is more “Duchampian” in its practice of elevating the lowly through context. The obvious respect with which he executes each and every line lends an elegance to his work that belies the often inelegant subject matter. This wry, dark humor is also an inherent part of Griffin’s work and shows him to be a shrewdly intelligent painter, well versed in art history, popular culture and its deconstruction.

For Griffin, film noir and its black humor have always best captured the true personality of Los Angeles. For this reason, the film genre and photography have been a strong influence for Griffin, both aesthetically and conceptually. This is well illustrated in Untitled, 2007, a drawing of a voyeur’s secret polaroid of a sunbathing woman from the waist down. Drawn over this image is an outline of a gold law enforcement badge. Here we see a symbol of authority combined with a morally questionable photograph exhibited in a vitrine. This is next to other similar drawings, one with a representation of black fingerprints marking an envelope. Furthermore, the alienation of the desert diaspora and underlying socio-political critique in all of Griffin’s work is a perfect reference to film noir.

Griffin is a painter of ‘evidence’, and in possessing the visual qualities of an x-ray, his work literally strips bare that which ‘remains’, and in those secret veiled places we are reminded of lives and stories, both lost and found. Griffin’s work is possibly his very own love letter to the desert, a place that has held a lifetime of fascination for the artist – honoring it’s lost words and forgotten people - each painting becomes a beautiful, yet unsentimental hymn to the desert.

About the Artist - Ron Griffin lives and works in Venice, California. He received his BA from UC Irvine and his MFA from California Institute of Arts. He has exhibited widely and his work is held in various public and private art collections, most notably, The Panza di Biumo Collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library. His work is featured in many publications and is highly sought after by collectors. In 2001, he was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and in the same year he traveled to Italy for a solo exhibition of his paintings. He is currently collaborating with L.A. artist Bryan Moss on a series of precious metal and stone badges. The series is titled “Under Color of Authority” and can be viewed online at .

After years of using the desert as inspiration, Griffin decided to give back something of his own, by crating up and leaving some of his work in the desert. His plan was to repeatedly return to the site and document what happened to it, but a large storm came the night he left it there and the work was never seen again - an ending, which in hindsight the artist sees as perfectly fitting.

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