Travess Smalley’s second solo exhibition at Foxy Production comprises ink and brush drawings, pigment prints, and photographs. The artist channels the history of the representation of flora and looks to the way visual rules can generate systems and new forms. As variations on organic, botanical themes, his fractal-like drawings are transformed through photography, scanning, printing, and Photoshop. Fusing painting and digital production, they become multi-cellular, abstracted compositions that combine degraded with saturated colors, and corroded with sharp textures.

Twenty-seven ink on paper drawings, selected from a large series, are hung in a grid on one wall. Together, they reveal the rules or codes at work in their production. They are very much action drawings: each traces the movements of the artist’s hand; yet, they are also a generative system with a central structure that is both variable and repeatable.

Smalley takes particular drawings and scans or photographs them, puts the resulting digital images through color processes and inversions, prints them and then scans them again. Their colors and forms break down, adding unique visual noise as they undergo each process. The largest prints have the eroded drawings’ forms laid over photographs that the artist took of flowers and shrubs, meshing “real” landscapes with highly digitally treated ones.

Smalley is interested in the many ways that artists have codified organic forms into systems that have a logic or behavior of their own, distinct from their roots. He looks to the influential designs of William Morris and the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement, to the diagrammatic drawings of European artists such as Emma Kunz and Anna Zemánková, and to contemporary artists such as Charles Gaines and his codifications of visual language.

Special thanks to Brandon Wilner.
Photography: Mark Woods.


Heinrich, Will. "Galleries: Travess Smalley." The New York Times. 15 Dec. 2017: C22.

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