Painting and collage are processes composed in layers—often opaque in nature, each altering or shrouding its antecedent. Traditional two-dimensional compositions begin with a canvas, then some form of underpaint, followed by a series of strata—at times scraped away and at others built up—that eventually form a composition that becomes an entirety greater than the sum of its parts.
Chris Rusak’s newest works, a series called Tension & Light (2013), break with the aforementioned conventions of painting and collage, yet are clearly painterly in their use of light and energetic mark making. Rusak’s works offer a highly meditative transparency to the picture plane; his compositions are replete with subtle shifts in tone and the graceful overlap of lines. Paintings The Origin of Chance (2013) and (Good) Argument (2013) weave together materials and medium in a seeming effortlessness delivered through the use of bold lines and a palette that is limited in color yet rich in tones of gray, shades of white, and delicate shadows.
While Rusak’s newest work deals distinctly with transparency, almost as a medium itself, it is a huge shift in his practice. Only a few years ago, Rusak was making very different compositions; first, a series of newspaper collages, including the work titled Automaton (2011), and second, a group of sculptural paintings titled Directory Assistance (2012). Both bodies of work share interesting compositional similarities with each other and his newest paintings—yet all with drastically different results.
Automaton and 415-554-6141 (both 2012)—the latter is part of the Directory Assistance series—are striking in their use of strong graphic markings mostly at horizontal angles. 415-554-6141 consists of unique materials—a boiled telephone book, silk-screened ink, and acrylic paint—and seems to be in aesthetic opposition to Rusak’s newest paintings, as anything but transparent. Though 415-554-6141 varies from his newer work, what carries through in both phases of Rusak’s creative production is the persistence of his interest in intense horizontal markings and a fascination with how light alters surfaces and vice versa.
Two tropes in painting—light and mark making—are visible throughout Rusak’s work and transform his Tension & Light series into compositions that function as paintings, sculptures, and screen prints. This hybridity gets to the heart of another aspect of Rusak’s works, chiefly that they exist at the edges of multiple, diverse media—they are dense and layered, yet have an airy, dynamic movement.
Rusak’s is an almost anti- or pre-language form of communication, with only parts of a whole revealing themselves, hinting at potential meanings. These works communicate by experimenting with light and bold, linear sections of pigment, and his central concern of transparency reveals the very structures of the visual, and in turn alters and lays bare the ways we see objects and images.
Chris Rusak lives and works in Los Angeles. Rusak is an artist and writer publishing essays on contemporary art exhibitions, contemporary artists, aesthetic theory, and continental philosophy. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States, including: University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; University of Maine, Farmington, ME; SKYDIVE Art Space, Houston, TX; Family Business, New York, NY; 111 Minna, San Francisco, CA; and Integration Gallery, Westerly, RI.