The US artist's surreal, mixed-media works are blurring the boundaries between illustration and fine art
Who? Artificial flies, silk flowers, shells and feathers are just some of the materials used by Texas-born artist Alan Reid, one of the artists featured in an upcoming show at Glasgow’s Mary Mary Gallery this September. Alan’s works are portraits of models created using a powder-room palette of pastel shades that make up surreal, enticing mixed media images. Alan now lives and works in New York with his girlfriend Jenny. It’s her magazines left lying about the house that inspire him to immortalise them in his work. “My home and studio are in the same building, so she goes to work and I stay behind animating the domestic shell,” Alan says. “I prefer foreign magazines, so the message gets befuddled in my misapprehension.” Alan’s work — revered by the illustration world as much as it is the fine art — has featured in the luscious Phaidon Vitamin D book, and is soon to be collected in a solo publication.
What? Featuring typographic elements, collaged cameos of curious objects, creatures and scenery popping up every now and again, Alan’s images are instantly recognisable but entirely unpredictable. They’re a beautifully composed mood-board or treasure chest, and they have that rare quality so few paintings possess: the feeling that you can almost smell them. “The work I’m making is about judgment, misreading, apprehension, playing, so I guess all this stuff is calculated to elicit engagement,” Alan says. “The work is about a singular type – a persona and her effort to express. And then there’s a dense mist of humour that I can’t talk about.” In Alan’s work the model usually takes centre stage, giving his pieces a magazine-cover quality. “I don’t have a very profound sense of fashion; I’m attracted to it,” he says. “Attracted to the power it exudes and the direct social impact it makes but I find the whole philosophy of fashion ill-fitting; it tugs in places it shouldn’t and is tight where I need room. But I do like looking at magazines (and harbour a fantasy of being involved in making fashion). Still, subject and author shouldn’t be confused.”
Why? Exhibiting with Alan at the show at Mary Mary Gallery (titled: I hope To God You’re Not As Dumb As You Make Out) are two other artists, Milano Chow and Matthew Brannon. “The title is Matthew’s, taken from an Orange Juice lyric. We’re good friends and talking music is often the rudder navigating our conversations. I do think it is pitch perfect. Helps name a bald attitude I sometimes have towards culture, art now, my own work, myself.”
Together the trio champion the painstaking craft of creating hyperreal imagery with pencil alone, and the real-world enjoyment of working together on a project that needs no computers to make it happen. Alan’s work takes fleeting images seen in the thousands of fashion magazines that grace our shelves, coffee tables and tote bags, and bathes the clutter we surround ourselves with — croissants, jewellery, knick-knacks — a mystical, immortal light.
The show exhibits duvet covers designed by the three of them, along with examples of their diverse but similarly luxurious, rich work. It will showcase Alan’s work in the lead-up to a book he’s working on, and will drum up excitement in preparation for his upcoming solo show at Lisa Cooley gallery in May. “I guess to make sense of this glamorous clutter we need to reel the footage backwards — to clearly reveal one thing suggesting the next,” Alan said. “But then Nabokov said, ‘The writer's job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.’”
I Hope To God You’re Not as Dumb As You Make Out will be on show at the Mary Mary Gallery in Glasgow from 26 September - 7 November 2015.