Spencer Finch: La Grande Jatte

Opening: Friday, Apr 7, 2023 5 – 7 pm
Friday, Apr 7 – May 13, 2023

1711 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

La Grande Jatte—​Spencer Finch’s sixth solo exhibition at Rhona Hoffman Gallery—borrows its title from 19th century post-Impressionist Georges Seurat’s iconic painting, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (1884-86). The painting was groundbreaking for its time due to its Pointillist technique developed by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, wherein dots of paint were applied to the canvas, creating an optical mix of color in the viewer’s eye. For La Grande Jatte at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Spencer Finch responds to Seurat’s pseudo-scientific artistic method to create 17 new paintings. Contrary to Seurat’s optical mixing method, Finch physically mixes the paint. These paintings continue and expand upon Finch’s legacy of exploring color, perception, and light.

Finch’s monochromatic irregular polygon paintings were formed by zooming in and cropping out identifiable or memorable moments of the historic painting, e.g., the monkey, parasol or top hat. Those crops were then analyzed to determine the number of colors used, as well as the quantity of that color used, to form that particular shape or motif. To create each painting, an ultra-high resolution photograph of the Georges Seurat painting was consulted. The total number of distinct paint colors found within each crop determined the number of sides of the corresponding painting as well as which colors were painted onto the sides of the shaped panels. Each crop was then overlaid with a 400 square grid and the amount of each paint color used was tallied and percentages calculated. The smaller the percentage of color, the shorter that side’s length. The percentages of the paint colors were then mixed together to produce the front facing color for each painting. Finally, when added together, the surface area of the 17 paintings on view, equals the surface area of the original Seurat canvas.

Whereas Seurat developed the technique of Pointillism, Finch has invented his own mathematical process to dictate the painting’s colors and panel shape, with the shape being theoretically malleable, in that there are many possible forms one can make from the given sides. Finch’s shaped panels clearly relate to monochromatic works by Ellsworth Kelly and Imi Knoebel, but also to Robert Morris, whose Box with the Sound of Its Own Making (1961) — with its recording of the sound of the making of the box playing within the box — serves as a structure that tells its own story, as do Finch’s paintings. 

Finch’s La Grande Jatte exhibition delves deeply into an art historically significant painting, but one that is also particularly dear to Chicago. The renowned painting was acquired in 1924 by Frederic Clay and Helen Birch Bartlett of Chicago and gifted in 1926 to The Art Institute, where it continues to live today. Viewers who have seen this painting may also recall the gray painted wall behind it. The same Benjamin Moore ‘Gray Showers’ paint has been applied to the Rhona Hoffman Gallery walls, recreating the viewer’s experience at The Art Institute albeit with Finch’s deconstructed, stunning monochromes.

Spencer Finch (b. 1962 New Haven, CT) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and his BA from Hamilton College. Finch has exhibited internationally since the early 1990s. Recent solo exhibitions include 'We send the wave to find the wave' (2022) at James Cohan in New York, NY; ‘Lux and Lumen’ (2022) at the Hill Art Foundation in New York, NY; 'The ‘I’ is the Mind of an Object' (2021) at the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack, NY; 'Only the band that erases writes the true thing' (2021) at Lisson Gallery in London; 'The Enigma of Color' (2021) at the Galerie Nordenhake in Berlin; and 'Botanica' (2019) at Galerie Nordenhake in Mexico City.

Finch has completed several large-scale public projects including: ‘A Cloud Index’ (2022) at the Paddington Crossrail Station in London; ‘Trying to remember the color of the sky on that September morning’ at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City (2014); ‘Moon Dust’ (2018), a long term installation at the Baltimore Museum of Art; ‘When You Look on the River and Sky’ (2019) as part of Walt Whitman’s bicentennial celebration in Philadelphia; ‘The Secret Life of Glass’ (2020) at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY; and ‘Orion’ (2020) at the Harvey Milk Terminal at The San Francisco Airport. 

The artist is a recipient of the American Federation of Arts’ Cultural Leadership Award (2014) and his work is held in numerous museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; the Glasgow Museum of Art; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Morgan Library, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Whitney Museum, New York.

Image: Gutter (Brooklyn) coffe cup, listerine pack, cigaretter butt, bottle of urine, paper, leaf, potato chip bag, 2019. Watercolor on paper. 21 x 29.5 inches. 24.25 x 32.25 inches, framed