Studio visit with Greg Drasler

Visiting an artist’s studio before a new body of work is packed and shipped off for a solo show can be a stirring experience. The artist is anxious, perhaps, but by the same token brimming with anticipation and eager to discuss the new paintings and explain the process and ideas behind the work. A few weeks ago I visited Greg Drasler just before his fourth solo show at Betty Cuningham. In 2015 Drasler received a Guggenheim fellowship that he used to drive across country and gather ideas for this new body of work. The new paintings feature small buildings that he saw from his car windows.

[Image at top: Greg Drasler’s studio wall.]

 The focal point of the exhibition is a six-panel painting, stretching 70 x 400 inches, called Stratocaster Suite (the image above shows sections of the painting). In it, Drasler combines the colorful geometry of a quilt he found at a yard sale with highway architecture. Painting the skies in plaid patterns, he uses two-point linear perspective to give the scenes a palpable sense of vastness.

“From the joining of shadowy constructed atmospheres of big sky vistas
to the crazy quilt inspired grounding of vernacular architecture, cloud
computing mixes it up with carousing of local color,” Drasler writes in
the press release for the show. “I have stepped out of fluid interior places into
the determined synthetic landscape produced by the car.”

 Nothing, of course, altered the landscape more than the introduction of the automobile in the early 1900s. Imagine crossing the country before there was an interstate highway system but after the introduction of two-lane paved highways, say in the early 1950s, and you get an idea of what era the paintings evoke. Drasler’s palette combines the muted tints of old hand-colored postcards with the vibrant colors of concert posters from the 1960s. The effect is one of nostalgia and longing.

Two individual paintings, leaning against the far wall in the studio, come together and form a reflected image.

These paintings, placed on a high shelf, were not included in the show. Drasler told me he starts each piece by painting in the background and working forward, adding elements from top to bottom to create the illusion of a three-dimensional space.

Behind the computer, Drasler has a series of small paintings (not in the  show) that are based on his dreams.

His touch with the brush is light. A line is often created indirectly, by painting the area around the underpainting, so as to leave it visible as a line. He calls this effect “edge-blink,” and I think that’s an excellent way to describe it.

Greg Drasler, detail.

In this painting, which is a small panel of a larger multi-panel piece, Drassler creates what looks like a building simply by masking a building-like shape with tape and painting around it. He calls them “tape shacks.”

Permanent vanishing points and perspective lines are marked on the wall and used to create the stunning illusion of depth in many of the skies.

More edge-blink.

Greg Drasler, studio wall.

Sometimes geometric foam core structures, rather than digital images, are models for the architectural elements in the paintings.

Drasler has lived in an old-school loft in Tribeca with his wife, artist Nancy Davidson, for years. The quilt that inspired the chunky geometric foregrounds in his paintings hangs on the wall in the living room area.

 A beautiful limited edition print of Stratocaster Suite rested on the long dining room table. The Fender Stratocaster, an iconic electric guitar first produced in 1954 and famously played by Hendrix, Clapton, Dylan, Buddy Guy, and others, is said to have changed the course of music history.
Grag Drassler, Stratocaster Suite, detail, 2016. Click to see full image.

After I left the studio, the paintings went off to the gallery, where they will remain installed through August 5. Stratocaster Suite is on the long wall to the right as you walk into the gallery. The room is narrow, so there’s no opportunity to move away and apprehend the panel in a glance. As viewers move through the space, the painting unfolds as if they are in a car, without Google Maps, cruising down the highway, possibly tripping, listening to some guitar solo at full blast.

Greg Drasler: Road Trip,” Betty Cuningham Gallery, LES, New York, NY. Through August 6, 2016. Visit the gallery’s website to see good images of the work in the show.

Related posts:
Interview: Medrie MacPhee in Ridgewood

Architecture as muse at Union College

Dustin Hodges: Rational bluff

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One Comment

  1. Mary Birmingham

    Thanks for all these great insights! I look forward to seeing the show–now with a deeper understanding.

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