Rainbows, Rose Bushes and Carcasses: Chase Westfall’s Delicate Balances

The gray season of the Pacific Northwest has arrived in full force, impelling many of us who inhabit this dark corner of the country to seek a dose of color and a break from the monotony in more inviting environs. Last weekend, I found myself in the relaxed milieu of a Miami between fairs, where Chase Westfall’s (NAP #100) first solo show at 101/exhibit induced a change of pace more lasting than the bright skies I have since left behind.  Flooded with patterns of diamonds that overlay realist subjects ranging from animal carcasses to rose bushes, the complicated webs woven by the artist refuse monotony more and more, with every second look. - Erin Langner, Seattle Contributor reporting from Miami

Chase Westfall | Rainbow, 2012, Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in, Image courtesy of 101/exhibit and the artist
Chase Westfall-22
Chase Westfall. Installation view. Image courtesy of 101/exhibit.

The gargantuan Acid Queen overtakes the exhibition’s main gallery, exploding with a mélange of butchered animal faces and unidentifiable limbs arranged in a Rorschach-like blotch that stretches vertically across 114 inches of linen.  References to Pete Townshend’s song of the same name and the affiliated drug disbursing gypsy of Tommy cannot be avoided in the kaleidoscopic composition of these forms, but clarity persists, since this is one of the few works in the show not obscured by a top layer of geometric forms. Although the lidless eyes and carcasses make fleeting appearances behind diamond lattices or embedded within other imagery throughout the show, Acid Queen appears unlike its surrounding world through its full-frontal brashness.

Chase Westfall | Acid Queen, 2012, Oil on linen, 114 x 78 in, Image courtesy of 101/exhibit and the artist
Chase Westfall | Agnes, 2012, Oil on linen, 24 x 24 in, Image courtesy of 101/exhibit and the artist

The diverse subject matter within this body of work hides behind borders and blocks, which are often in pastels that lighten the overall atmosphere and accentuate the artist’s tongue in cheek references. In Agnes, the identifiable silhouette of Agnes Martin’s grids makes an appearance, while a delicate version of Westfall’s diamonds gently bleed into the grid’s severe borders, the hues brushing a lighter tone over their more serious inspiration.  In contrast, many of the works incorporate grids and lattice overlays of greater masses, which at some points intersect with more lighthearted rainbows and roses, while at others wash over mutilated humans and animals.

Chase Westfall | Rose Bush, 2012, Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in, Image courtesy of 101/exhibit and the artist
Chase Westfall | Vulture, 2012, Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in, Image courtesy of 101/exhibit and the artist

Westfall achieves his bold effects of textures and color with a meticulous process of layering, painting and cutting away of masking tape atop his canvas and linen surfaces.  The modest tape material adds the most complex elements to the works, as it fluctuates between revealing and concealing the other intricate details of the paintings’ subjects, through an almost optical illusion-like effect.  The pinpointed tension between the illusory and the real balances seamlessly within each of the artist’s works, creating a solid cohesion between otherwise divergent ideas and imagery. Even Acid Queen’s lattice-less merging of forms hangs in a space aligned with the rest of the paintings, innovatively defining the place between a rainbow and a corpse, maintaining a serious gesture while laughing along the way.

Chase Westfall | Blue Trap, 2012, Oil on linen, 24 x 24 in, Image courtesy of 101/exhibit and the artist

Chase Westerfall’s work is on view at 101/exhibit through April 6, 2013.


Chase Westerfall was born in Albany, NY and received his MFA in Painting from the University of Athens, Georgia.  His work has recently been featured at Twin Kittens Gallery (Atlanta, GA), Athens Institute for Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Georgia, and Flux Factory (Long Island, NY), among numerous other locations.  He currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Art at East Tennessee State University.

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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