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Tim Bavington at Heather Marx

Tim Bavington
Heather Marx, San Francisco

British-born Las Vegas-based artist Tim Bavington has brought the neon of the Strip into stripe painting. This show of recent work came across as both smart and rich in color, detail, and variety.

Bavington airbrushes vertical bands of bright acrylic onto stretched, predominantly horizontal canvases. A generation ago viewers of such work would have assumed that it aimed to exclude all reference. Today the audience for painting accepts that even the most abstract pictures may entail allusions.

Bavington's titles, mostly borrowed from rock songs, hint at the nature of his work's coded content. Using his computer, he develops schemes that assign bands of different hue and width to melodic features of instrumental riffs or solos. He then sprays the paint onto canvas. The abstractions that result bring to mind the stripe paintings of Gene Davis, Morris Louis, and Kenneth Noland.

A musical analogy lay behind many of the stripe paintings of the 1960s and '70s: the idea that a banded color-field abstraction justified itself to the eye the way a chord might to the ear. Bavington updates that analogy by painting unreadable maps of sonic information.

The artist's palette also suggests a different cultural consciousness from the one that lay behind color-field painting. Bavington's is nourished on bar codes and the flashy tones of video and computer graphics, and unconcerned with the "purity" once thought possible in abstraction.

His eight-foot-long Little x Little (2004), like much of his work, has a gaudiness that an earlier generation's abstractionists often forswore in the name of "rigor." He seems to want to keep abstract painting in step with an ever brighter and more hectic culture by whatever means necessary.
-- Kenneth Baker

Reprinted from ARTnews, May 2005, p. 148, 150.

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