Black and White and Red All Over: Denzil Hurley & Robert Storr

One would not expect to happen upon Robert Storrs paintings inside a small gallery in a residential neighborhood of Seattle.  Finding Storr’s paintings on the Internet is difficult enough, given the visual art behemoth’s repertoire of curatorial projects and writings. For the month of April, however, four modest works titled S.P. #1, 2, 3, 4 reside in a corner of Francine Sedarss house-turned-gallery, alongside a series of monochromatic black paintings by Seattle artist Denzil Hurley. - Erin Langner, Seattle Contributor

Installation view. Image courtesy of Francine Sedars Gallery.

As the dominant set of works in the room, Hurley’s canvases set the tone for viewing this appropriately untitled exhibition.  Small canvases less than one foot in length cling together in calculated groupings: sets of vertical rows, a single horizontal column, a painting-frame that outlines the wall behind the work. While outwardly monotonous, the paintings are striking in their ability to control the looking process. Beneath their dense surfaces, the final paintings’ earlier lives reveal themselves: an Andalusian eye, a fleeting fleck of color, an unfinished corner.  Such barely perceptible details force lingering, extended examination. Similar to the process of adjusting to a darkened room, Hurley’s paintings require us to stop and stare until we begin to see again.

Denzil Hurley | Untitled, oil on canvas, 2012, 76 ½” x 102”
Image courtesy of Francine Sedars Gallery.

This meditation in black is interrupted by the red spots of Robert Storr’s S.P. #1, 2, 3, 4 popping into the silence like a dusty LP.  Reminiscent of a binary clock, the dots hang in a conversation cloud-like white band above a field of black. The depth of Hurley’s layers heightens the two dimensional flatness of Storr’s S.P.’s. Although these would easily be considered abstracted works within the general context of contemporary painting, among Hurley’s untitled pieces, Storr’s works prompt a desire to associate; I could not stop thinking of Lichtenstein’s halftone patterns, distilled to minor punctuations within a characterless, repeating conversation.

Robert Storr | S.P. #1,2,3,4, acrylic on linen on board, 2012, each 20” x 24”
Image courtesy of Francine Sedars Gallery.

Without the priming experience of Hurley’s purely experiential paintings, it is hard to imagine a similar desperation for a reference point naturally accompanying S.P. #1, 2, 3, 4.  Storr’s work is, in general terms,  abstracted. However, Hurley’s works make the subtle details of Storr’s design more poignant and graspable. Conversely, the light, easy pace embedded within Storr’s series brings out the heavy, slowness of Hurley’s; moving between the two artists is the exhibition. This conscious exchange between the two sets of work is the show’s greatest success; these paintings percolate when left to talk amongst themselves, in their hilltop gallery, away from it all.

Denzil Hurley | Untitled, oil on canvas, 2012. Dimensions variable
Image courtesy of Francine Sedars Gallery.


Denzil Hurley and Robert Storr’s paintings are on view at Francine Sedars Gallery in Seattle, WA through May 6, 2012.

Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Manager of Adult Public Programs at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)


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