Bedfellows, Bob Snead’s exhibition at Isaac Delgado Fine Arts Gallery, is a study of the intimate and quotidian moments in the life of a family. Staring at the computer, folding laundry, sleeping in a chair—these paintings and digital drawings depict friends and family members in poses of recess. All together, Bedfellows is an experiential narrative that, in the words of John Updike, “give[s] the mundane its beautiful due.”
A fitting New Orleans aphorism hung above Bob Snead’s new home in 2010, a sign reading Keep It Real—Barber & Beauty Shop. After two years living on the road in Transit Antenna, a bus that housed a community-based artist residency, Snead and his family settled into a new household, which is the stage for the Bedfellows series. In Clean Laundry II (2013), Snead paints his wife asleep on the couch in a pile of laundry. She seems to have lost her body in the folds of fabric. The tumultuous palette of colors confirms the laborious task of Snead family laundry. Blankets and laundry overflow the picture plane throughout this series. Laundry seems to be a metaphor for a Sisyphean punishment, an eternity of effort and unending wash.
In Taylor Late Night/Early Morning (2013), Snead’s son sleeps in an uncomfortable position in front of the computer. Empty Coke bottles, crinkled dollar bills, and sneakers litter the scene. Taylor’s body creates a circular shape that opposes many of the sharp angles found in the composition. The viewer looks down upon the sleeping form, as they are trying to wake him for school. The perspective in many of the paintings intimately focuses on the subjects, as if one is standing in the room with the subject and can smell dirty socks. There is a cynicism and wryness to this collection of paintings, but there is also a tenacious hopefulness, contours that mirror the shape of many everyday American families.
For this exhibition, Snead utilizes the natural light in the beautiful, huge Delgado Gallery to his advantage by hanging digital drawings on layered Mylar in front of the window. Chair Stack II (2013) and Book Stack (2013) glow with daylight. As the viewer moves around the work, the images on Mylar become distorted. These works have a lightness and humor to them, as though the artist is winking at the audience.
Snead’s recent work has included installations such as Family Dollar General Tree, at May Gallery in 2012, and Wreck, at the Contemporary Art Center in 2011 . This exhibition feels like a natural counterpoint to those others—it is an internal meditation instead of a conceptual, outward-looking work. Bedfellows exudes love and affection for friends, family, and the everyday objects of a home.
Bedfellows is on view at Isaac Delgado Fine Art Gallery, in New Orleans, through September 19, 2013.