Remaining pictorially rich while colorfully abstract, Franklin Evans’ newest work surrounds the viewer on the floor and the walls in his current exhibition. Stepping into the space, one must walk, despite initial hesitation, on a bookshelf positioned face-up on the floor with Plexiglas covering it for foot traffic. Entering into the space in this way is like crossing a threshold characterized by Evans’ literary and critical interests, which proliferate in the show. Titled “eyesontheedge,” Evans’ second solo show at Sue Scott presents the notion of the “artist as reader,” while including mashups of color and geometry that characterizes his relatively formal aesthetic leanings.
Situated more like a single in-progress installation than separate completed works, Evans’ show grabs for material rawness but first demands a few moments to figure out what you’re looking at. Printed or painted ephemera is affixed to the gallery floor, and unstretched canvases presented with the casualness of a studio-visit are found close to loosely related ephemera—strung up, taped, tacked, printed or photocopied. The paintings on canvas are layered with vividly intersecting lines that resemble layered painter’s tape, perhaps used to edge and re-edge the pigment in stripes that refract with kaleidoscopic flux. As acid greens, soft oranges, and canary yellows surround a central axis in memorydoubled (2012), the painting grounds the installation with an entry point that, in an otherwise chaotic environment, provides a desirable but unrestrictive focal point.
Overall, Evans’ geometric interests communicate with formal sharpness, but the printed and found imagery surrounding it breaks the formality. Viewers learn about Evans’ personal life through snapshots of friends and lovers; there are also film stills and ephemera the artist simply found and enjoyed. Homoerotic fragments augment the autobiographical openness viewers may feel in the photographic components of his work. At times, the installation elements can be somewhat distracting. Sheets of paper taped to the floor feel more like unconsidered filler when crinkling underneath your feet. Conversely, small printed images taped along corners and hung on strings communicate with a lackluster fussiness.
These qualities are easily overshadowed by the strength of 1967, the one sound-based work in the show. In this piece, a card table in the middle of the gallery supports a Macbook that plays readings from art criticism, biographies and various other texts—the original pages for which, in some cases, are photocopied with Evans’ notations and taped to the walls. The voices of five readers speak the lines with sensational flair. Justin Spring’s Secret Historian, passages from issues of October and other literary bits are plucked out of the texts and spoken with singular conviction. Certain lines direct the viewer’s thoughts both outside and further inside Evans’ show. “Wiener’s canvases look at the idea of something, rather than something of it itself,” was a line recited with directness by an anonymous male reader. Another of the 350 recorded lines played twice in 15 minutes; “Color patterns are seen as elaborations of the elementary pure qualities of yellow, red, blue.” The sentences and sentence fragments give a sensual form and personality to the show while reminding us of the artist’s library, which literally paves the entryway.
Despite the clarity gained from 1967, nothing in “eyesontheedge” is easily defined. Evans’ impressively raw use of materials presents a mixed-media amalgamation of his life and interests—visual and otherwise. The work is more of an overall experience than an opportunity to see discrete art objects. Most interestingly, Evans’ critical and literary inclinations are effectively embedded in the presentation of his abstract painting. After leaving “eyesontheedge,” it’s satisfying to ponder the essence of Evans’ very individual practice as a whole—one that spills over into broad cultural engagement, color-rich materiality and a personal willingness to string it all together.