Gene Beery

Shoot The Lobster | Los Angeles
3315 West Washington Blvd
July 8, 2017–September 10, 2017

Gene Beery, Gift, 2001, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 20".

“TRA as the background music of life” is written on a painting by Gene Beery—but what is “TRA”? Nothing less than “ART” backward, like “dog” from “god”: the wordplay of white-bread irreverence. TRA skates across the sixteen midsize black-on-white canvases in this show, with the works hung in rough salon-style clusters but at jaunty angles, like they’re doing the twist. This, indeed, rids painting of its preciousness (or at least demonstrates that this painter cares not for such things). They’re slapdash in execution, too, so that any one piece feels exTRAneous—or, as he puts it, “ETCETERA TRA ∞” (Et Cetera TRA, 2009).

Beery’s punning plugs back into established diction with phrases like “HOMAGE TO TRANSPARENCY!” in a piece from 1999 by the same title. Each canvas, gessoed white but duly grimed, bears only black uppercase letters jabbed on with short, dense strokes. But as if not to seem gestural, the text’s rough pencil blocking is still visible under the paint. In Gift, 2001, the titular word runs horizontally, but vertically there’s an unwrapped graphite present: “NEARLY ABSOLUTE POWER!” Another reads “FLIRTING WITH AN ART STYLE DEATH”—meaning the death of an aesthetic, or death, art-style. Either way, the paintings at this party wear anti-style as style.

Beery has a healthy sense of art’s value. He seems to rattle off canvases like T-shirts or sticky notes, all the while acknowledging, as one incongruously somber painting has it (Humans Have Killed, 2006), that “HUMANS HAVE KILLED FOR BEAUTY.” Spoken like a TRA believer.

— Travis Diehl