Process. That is the first thing a viewer may think of as they begin to take in the work of Max Unterhaslberger in his exhibition, Unterhaslberger II now on view at Adventureland Gallery. These works on glass panels illustrate changing moods and meanings on the part of the artist, and the viewer is in on this moody adventure. From bright palettes with fast-paced strokes to more somber palettes with some claustrophobic vibes, the works take the viewer on a visual journey.
Visiting the artist’s studio, one observes a different process: the artist uses canvas instead of glass and more impressionistic abstraction over the more manic or sleek strokes prevalent on his works on glass. In the show, the broad, emotive strokes literally dance upon the surface. In an email interview with the artist he said, “Working with glass and clear media in general is an interesting process in that it is essentially painting backwards when you turn the panel around,” he writes. “The front-most mark is in theory the first mark you make, but typically when you paint on canvas the top mark is the last mark. This lends itself to endless experimentation and complexity. Accidents happen, growth occurs and new processes come from the materials themselves.”
This idea of experimentation is deeply intriguing in this series as the viewer is also in on the experimentation. The viewer is experimenting with new ways of seeing. At once confounding and slickly magnetic, the works stare us down as the paint thickly plays with us from behind the glass. Using acrylic, aerosol, and varnish on glass for his works, the result is a revved-up visual event.
The process is apparent in each piece as one can see what object, shape, or stroke was applied first. In one particular work, a red box shape melts down into three lines. If on a traditional canvas, this would be the last thing that would be painted as the central object. Since this is painted on glass, it is the first object painted. The reversal is there as a mirror, as a trope to confound us, as a way to usher us into looking at things differently, a tenet of art with staying power.
Texture makes its way into the show in the works where Unterhaslberger uses automobile paint. We asked the artist why this medium in particular interests him. “The auto paint is an enamel that is very sturdy and one of the few paints that, to my knowledge, creates a very strong bond on glass. Aside from that, there is an amazingly sturdy and smooth texture to the paint unlike anything I’ve ever used.” He continues to elaborate on another benefit of this type of paint, its heartiness creating texture to the surface. “However, when this paint was applied thicker than the recommended film it begins to shrink, resulting in an almost fractal geometric pattern. An unexpected but very welcomed result that thrilled me and the viewers at the show.”
Unterhaslberger contends that the intention of the works in the show “is to have pieces that made people question how the painting actually was created and to take it away from purely being an object with the intention to be beautiful.” Beauty is there, though. The moodiness of the series as a whole object and a fully-conceived idea makes Unterhaslberger II an exhibition not to be missed.
The show is on view through January 24th at Adventureland Gallery located at 1513 N. Western.