Another night, another FABULOUS Yellow Peril opening reception. This latest exhibition features “ShrineBeast”, the recent body of mixed media work from Andrew Paul Woolbright. With an almost full house of people, the positive energy of the work buzzed throughout, transforming the space. Van and Robert had a colorful arrangement of edible flowers spread amongst the feast to be shared, echoing the floral aesthetics of the show.
At their last opening, Van had described some of the backstory behind the creation of this work. He had said that Woolbright’s work was once much different, but that falling in love had completely transformed the nature and aesthetic of his art. This unabashed, guileless affirmation of the power of love on his life definitely locked in on my more sentimental side. Often times people aren’t as forthright about the effects of their love life on their work, so to be that honest was quite refreshing. Through his experience of falling in love with his wife, Woolbright felt transported back to a pre 9/11 time of great hope and optimism. His intent with this work is to invoke this same sentiment and bring his audience back in time with him.
The installation piece is one to be engaged with, where the viewer is invited to place themselves upon the NordicTrack (Yes… you read that right) and pull forward into the recess to view what could most likely be considered the last piece of pre 9/11 news media. The piece is a little wobbly, but sturdy enough so do not fear it! Woolbright also incorporated film work into his exhibition, acting as physical manifestation of the figures of his paintings wandering between scenes of the natural, digital, and grandiose. Adorned in ornate garlands of colorful flowers, he indeed seemed to be the titular “ShrineBeast”.
The work itself was mesmerizing, with the paintings drawing me in repeatedly throughout the night. So many details and layers of colors that revealed themselves with each glance. The large scale nature of the paintings command your utmost attention throughout the space. It’s best to sit back at times and observe the big picture of the narrative at hand, for once you approach it closely once more, the endless subtle details suck you back in. The figures in the paintings evoked a stature of benevolent figures who hold place in an ancient mythological pantheon, timeless in nature. Yet their postures paired with the wide scale use of floral décor throughout the scenes, blending the avant-guarde with elements of the rococo. It brought Fragonard’s “The Swing” to mind amidst a slew of other art history, mythological, and pop culture references.
The reception was a night of great conversation and chance encounters for all and perhaps in that night we were all indeed transported back to a time and/or mindset from an era that seemed once lost. Could we all truly revert back to such an optimistic state if we reengaged and gave in to our sentimental side? I at least challenge you to tackle the attempt and maybe Woolbright’s work will enact as a catalyst for even a momentary shift towards it.