Anton Kern Gallery is pleased to announce Onwards, Brian Calvin’s eighth solo exhibition in New York. Spanning the first and second floor galleries, the artist presents 17 new paintings in a variety of scales, and 50 framed pencil drawings extracted from a 2022 sketchbook that he filled by making one drawing each day.

In Onwards, Calvin continues to dig deeper into the possibilities of figuration. His iconic longhaired characters alternately exist in flat color fields and descriptive scenery. Formal concerns are most succinctly elucidated in his tightly cropped compositions. In Double Beat, facial features are reduced to their essential shapes, and the convergence of multiple faces and planes disrupt one’s expectations of a portrait. Color is at its most sumptuous and unnaturalistic. Large expanses of canvas are painted a solid hue while other areas are articulated with dots and dashes, patterns becoming worlds unto themselves. 

Other paintings allow for more information while preserving a certain tension. By fleshing out the figures’ surroundings, these scenes are suggestive of narrative. For example: in Night Comes On a woman sits at a table with an opened bottle of wine and gazes out the window into a starry night; in Various Positions two people carry an artwork to or from an unknown destination; in Reception of the Transmission the viewer adopts the first-person perspective of Calvin’s protagonist in the midst of watching TV in a living room. In each of these cases, there is a halt in action, and expectant acknowledgement of the viewer, demanding response.

Doubling is a prevalent theme in the new works. A sun or clock shares a resemblance to an eye, and curtains to hair. Plants and candles echo fingers. A ventriloquist paints a canvas through the surrogate of his dummy. Paintings appear within paintings. The back and front of a figure are made visible through torqued over-the-shoulder glances, or in the reflection of a handheld mirror.

Upstairs, fifty framed sketchbook drawings line the entire second floor gallery. The drawings are presented chronologically – October 28, October 29, etc. – giving the effect of flipping from one page to the next. Various fascinations can be identified through repetition over several days, and motifs emerge and solidify. The inclusion of such a volume of drawings underscores the importance Calvin places on the activity of drawing within his overall practice. The diaristic presentation invites the viewer into the headspace of the artist freely generating ideas and refining compositional devices, many of which have been integrated into paintings dating from 2022 to present. 

Coinciding with the exhibition is the release of Calvin’s latest book entitled Days (Flood Editions, 2023). The book presents a selection of the pencil drawings from all four of Calvin’s 2022 drawing-a-day sketchbooks. A book launch will inaugurate the opening reception, featuring the artist in conversation with writer and cultural critic Jennifer Krasinski.