‘EatChewAlive’ Opening Reception
RADinc. (123 E Washington St) — Sunday, July 2 at 3 p.m.
“Prayer Cell #1” and “Prayer Cell #2” by John Schlue. — photo provided by RADinc.
EatChewAlive is visual artist John Schlue’s debut exhibition in Iowa City — some 14 years after he graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in studio art. The works will be on view at RADinc. Saturday, with an opening reception Sunday, July 2 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit, a collaboration between RADinc. and Public Space One, will be on display at the downtown storefront gallery until Tuesday, July 25.
The exhibit is the culmination of the last three and a half years shut in an 800-square-foot studio in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. EatChewAlive spans nine paintings — all acrylic oil on felt — that engulf the viewer in concentric circles and squares contoured by throbbing, bright paint. Five of the pieces are seven-foot squares. Informed by the textures of the op art movement and drawing from the pop art palette, the resulting exhibition is undeniably West Coast-style Americana: sprawling, gridded, radiant.
Schlue’s paintings not only echo the neon of L.A., but also the undiluted eye of a neonate or a child. Fatherhood is not an uncommon muse and during the time he spent painting the pieces in EatChewAlive, Schlue was helping raise two of his own youngsters. Schlue’s relentless geometric patternization presents its own conundrum: the task of vast simplicity in circles and squares. This notion mirrors pre-pubescence, in its uncorrupted shapes and phrasing, he says.
“Mirror 1” and “Mirror 2” by John Schlue. — photo provided by RADinc
Schlue opened his first solo exhibition, New Paintings, in 2012 at the Western Project in Los Angeles. Off the heels of that plunge, Schlue needed reclusion, a departure from the showcases. His Chinatown studio — essentially a hollow cube with 20-foot ceilings — gave him the space and structure needed.
“It had become a real focused exercise on a simple problem,” Schlue says. “I wanted to see this sort of language between these two materials: felt and oil.”
And working with felt was no small task for Schlue. An already tedious process, his canvases dealt in square footage akin to Pollock’s — an artist whose “Mural” Schlue experienced first hand at the University of Iowa Museum of Art. The university transported that piece in 2015 for an 18-month restoration at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, where Schlue revisited Pollock’s work and felt the pangs of nostalgia.
Born in Belle Plaine, Iowa Schlue’s EatChewAlive first opened in his hometown a year ago. With the help of two close friends, the exhibition was optimized for travel, visiting gallery spaces in Grinnell and Fairfield, Iowa during the past year. The exhibition at RADinc. is down the road from Schlue’s alma mater and the garages, basements and bedrooms he once used to set up makeshift studios.
“Any opportunity to present work to the public means a lot,” he says. “As an artist, it’s really humbling and I’m grateful for that, especially in Iowa City — it was such an important and pivotal moment in my life.”