For his fourth solo exhibition at Inman Gallery, Jim Richard takes the genre of landscape painting to its most banal: nondescript yards rendered in a paint-by-numbers style irreverently recast the genre. But this is no mere exercise in humor. Richard is a master at subtle emotional shifts and casts of feeling. The purple Yard Mood is somewhere between blue and red in its suggestiveness. In the center of the canvas, saplings growing on a walkway near a large house are knotty yet optimistic, forgettable and yet growing.
In his deft mixing of 'high' and 'low' cultural imagery, Richard has always looked to invisible spaces, often playfully considering the role of art within such quotidian concerns. Since the early 1990s, when he shifted from painting in acrylic to oil paint, Richard's work has engaged the push-pull between Modernism and its environs. Now, working in the velvety matte surface of Flashe vinyl paints, Richard takes the conventions of paint-by-number to paint yards and gardens, each in a single-color family: he paints Afternoon in rosy pinks and mauves, Cool Breeze in a range of green hues. As the Village Voice notes, Richard is adept at "channeling [a] sense of anxiety about what, exactly, constitutes art, once all the rules are in flux."
In Art Stroll, we see Richard's new take on one of his recurring themes: here, he inserts sculptures into the landscape, their uneasiness in space signaled by the crispness of their lines in a landscape of soft daubs. In earlier series of paintings, Richard looked to the placement of sculpture in collectors' homes and interior design. Here, the plant life surrounds and encompasses the sculptures, making their place in the world even more confusing. What could improve upon the natural beauty of a garden landscape? The Southern yards and gardens from which Richard takes his inspiration are cultural and community symbols: in these paintings, Richard pinpoints their unique beauty and, simultaneously, their particular silliness. Writing about Richard, Art in America says, "Fine, fake, historical, pop and kitsch together evoke a decadence that feels true to New Orleans, where contradictions are the norm and where the esthetic of pastiche requires little manipulation on the artist's part."
Shown with the paintings, Richard's three black and white "pours" on paper in I Know a Place take the landscape imagery into a rich exploration of pattern and line, suggestive of dense foliage and leafy richness. Here, plant-like curves wind through the available space—are these plants or patterns, abstractions or landscapes?—one wonders, as they encroach on our surety of what we see.