Swanson’s recent paintings approach portraiture by way of abstraction. Rather than coaxing the abstract out of figuration, a tendency in recent bodily abstraction, these take a murkier tack. In his ongoing series Aging (2014–2016), there is no discrete composition, no mark-making as brushed, drawn, or scratched. The lack of bristle or prod suggests an aerosol or stylus, a bypassing of the brush as an extension of the hand, directing us towards the ethereal. An uncertainty sets in as to how the paintings’ surface scars of crusted graphite, mica, and pumice were formed—their place in geologic time also indeterminable. A suite of portraits on black felt also alludes to the passage of time, the cycle between sunset and sunrise, again reaffirming our place in corporeal reality — from a single night to an æon.

Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted with Online Taxes, Inc. (2014), a heavy steel adjustable door-jammer emblazoned with the titular corporation’s name, implying a possible prize giveaway from a bottom-rate internet company. Nearby, the ambiguity as to whether the figure in An Approach (2015) haunts or consoles the foreground figure is echoed by nearby sculptures, each of which relies on a similar rebranding, and the questionable generosity they bring to mind.

Swanson’s paintings are staunchly monochromatic: black, grey, and white. Primary color accents — red, blue, yellow — and the corresponding negative of the image float to the surface and recede below the skin of the painting’s image. This lack of subjective decision-making establishes a narrow scope of control: Here is the hue, here is the accent, here is the feel. Summoning proto-Expressionists and contemporary artists alike, they provide a nuanced chain of continuity between current and past inflections of the human condition as expressed through painting.

Ian Swanson was born in Detroit, MI. He received his BFA from Wayne State University in Detroit and his MFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Recent solo and collaborative exhibitions include /recent works at Simone DeSousa, Detroit (2012); studios pretty much an office rn at Welcome Screen, London (2013); ego drift at WAKE, Detroit (2014); or or and at Free Paarking, St. Louis (2014); Vital Shift in Central Observer at Bosi, New York (2015); and a native fear…a featureless protagonist at D’Agostino & Fiore, New York (2015). He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

feels like feels also marks the inauguration of the ASHES/ASHES outdoor project space LA/DW~PS. The running theme across artists’ projects will be that of xerophobia. Ian Swanson and Wendy Ross initiate the program with Raft (2016), a collaborative work comprised of two identical pairs of rebranded, DIY rain barrels.

Ashes-2016-01-25_001An Approach, 2015
acrylic on linen
54 x 46 inches
137.2 x 116.8 cm

Ashes-2016-01-25_014Untitled (Purple Rag), 2015
acrylic on terrycloth in artist’s frame
20 x 18 inches
50.8 x 45.72 cm

Ashes-2016-01-25_013Exhibition view

Ashes-2016-01-25_012Exhibition view

Ashes-2016-01-25_011retireforthefunofit.com, 2015 (detail)
mixed media
18 x 18 x 18 inches
45.7 x 45.7 x 45.7 cm

Ashes-2016-01-25_010retireforthefunofit.com, 2015
mixed media
18 x 18 x 18 inches
45.7 x 45.7 x 45.7 cm

Ashes-2016-01-25_009Black Bonnet, 2015
acrylic, pumice, graphite on felt
31 x 25 inches
78.7 x 63.5 cm

Ashes-2016-01-25_008Aging4; Aging5; Aging6; Aging8, 2015
acrylic, graphite on canvas
62 x 46 inches
157.5 x 116.8 cm


Ashes-2016-01-25_006Untitled, 2016
acrylic on dibond in artist’s frame
17 x 14 inches
43.2 x 35.6 cm

Ashes-2016-01-25_005Aging9; Aging10, 2015
acrylic, enamel, mica on canvas
54 x 46 inches
137.2 x 116.8 cm

Ashes-2016-01-25_004Blue Night; Red Dusk; Yellow Dawn, 2016
acrylic on felt in artist’s frame
45 x 29 inches
114.3 x 73.7 cm

Ashes-2016-01-25_003Online Taxes, Inc., 2014 (detail)
acrylic on BuddyBar door jammer
dimensions variable

Ashes-2016-01-25_002Online Taxes, Inc., 2014
acrylic on BuddyBar door jammer
dimensions variable





feels like feels
by Ian Swanson
@ ASHES/ASHES, Los Angeles
January 23 – March 5, 2016