Charles Gaines: The Art World’s Face of Representation

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"An eye-opening experience into the importance of representing individuals."

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In the year or so in which we have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, online art exhibitions have become a part of the ‘new normal’. Numerous artists and exhibitions have been presented in the last year, yet the latest exhibition at Hauser & Wirth stands out for its extraordinary style. I am referring to Charles Gaines’ latest exhibition, ‘Multiples of Nature, Trees and Faces’. 

Charles Gaines is an award-winning artist with a focus on politics and philosophy. Throughout the late 20th century Gaines earned his Master of Fine Arts degree and proceeded to teach as a professor of art at California State University Fresno. In 1972 Gaines experienced his first New York City exhibition at the Cinque Gallery. A succession of exhibitions followed, leading to multiple awards. Gaines is a celebrated artist but has also written numerous academic books and articles. As of January 29th 2021, Charles Gaines’s first solo exhibition in the UK has been presented online via Hauser & Wirth’s London-based gallery. 

This latest exhibition ‘Multiples of Nature, Trees and Faces’ is a continuation of the 1978 series ‘Faces’. The exhibition features faces and trees of Los Angeles overlaid with numbered grids, and this systematic numbering of the grids in tandem with the use of bright colours gives a new perspective on how we perceive faces and the nature around us. In particular instances, the outlines of faces are the same on several pieces, yet Gaines’ awe-inspiring use of colour dictates which face stands out to the observer. Gaines’ unique approach to depicting individuals is a demonstration of his passion for the representation and expression of individuals, particularly those who self-identified as multiracial or multi-ethnic. Gaines’ portrayal of faces and trees through systematised grids and intense colour is an eye-opening representation of individuality and race. The various small changes from each work highlight how cultural and political attitudes shape how observers perceive race, ultimately encouraging people to take into consideration the factors that decide how they choose to perceive someone.

The impressiveness of this exhibition lies in the detail and execution of how Gaines uses the grid to guide his placement of colour which defines the facial features of each person. The team at Hauser & Wirth have thoughtfully curated this exhibition so that even in an online format, observers are able to take in the full work of Charles Gaines as individual pieces and as a collection. Charles Gaines’ first UK-based solo exhibition is a profound example of how art can influence change and is a highly recommended viewing experience. 

Multiples of Nature, Trees and Faces is available online for free until the 1st of May, 2021 with Hauser & Wirth.

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English student interested in literature, art and music. Better known for my love of military history, planes, trains and automobiles (especially classic Ford Mustangs)!

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