Soupcan Girl Two, Cesar Santander, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 30
Under Pressure: Painting with Air
On View: November 16, 2023 - January 14, 2024
Most people are familiar with airbrushing as a method used by commercial artists to decorate a broad range of material culture such as t-shirts, sporting equipment, cakes, body art, makeup, tattoos, and vehicles ranging from boats to pickup trucks, semis, cars, and motorcycles. In the 1950s and ’60s, airbrush became a go-to medium for the so-called Kustom Kulture, a neologism that refers to styles and fashions associated with custom cars and motorcycles in the United States, particularly the hot rod scene of Sothern California. As would be expected, many commercially successful airbrush artists possess incredible skill, but many lack true artistry, which may be the reason why the medium has often been unfairly maligned or ignored by the fine art world over the years.
Though a hip medium in the world of commercial art today, airbrush is actually a 19th-century invention. Francis Stanley (who with his twin brother became famous for the Stanley Steamer) patented a simple atomizer airbrush to colorize photographs in 1876. Some fifteen years later, Charles Burdick revolutionized the airbrush with his patented double action, internal-mix airbrush similar to those used today. It contained paint somewhat like a fountain pen and featured an index finger trigger with the air supply re-positioned through the bottom, which improved balance and control. Burdick’s invention was promoted by Thayer and Chandler, a Chicago mail-order arts and crafts retailer, which also showcased it at the 1892 World Columbian Exposition. As other improvements ensued, the medium took off. Pioneers of airbrushing include Surrealist Man Ray and graphic illustrator Alberto Vargas. Later, Pop artist James Rosenquist used it to evoke the qualities of advertising in his work. Today, works by artists who use airbrush embody a diverse range of styles, subject matter, and techniques.
Under Pressure is comprised of 45 works, wide-ranging in theme. It is a survey exhibition of contemporary realism by 15 exceptional airbrush artists from around the U.S. and beyond, including photorealists Don Eddy, Kirk Lybecker, and Hisaya Taira; still-life painter Cesar Santander; abstract illusionist George Green; Dru Blair; Silvia Belviso; David Evanoff; Joshua Zarambo; Jerry Ott; Bruce Evans; Alan Pastrana.