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Smells Like Paint at Grizzly Grizzly or Get ‘Em While They’re Hot!


By Dennis D’Alesandro

When I walked into the Laura Moriarty and Josh Weiss show at Grizzly Grizzly last week, I was almost knocked to the ground by the gloriously strong and chemically sweet odor of paint and painting mediums that was lingering in the air. Like most painters, I love the smell of paint, so it was a very welcoming scent that gave me instant satisfaction with the show before I even looked at the pieces. Then, when I looked at the pieces and smelled the pieces while I looked at them, I felt like a kid in a candy factory, like the art was hot off the presses.

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“The Most Recent Upheaval,” 2011 – Encaustic on wooden pallets – apprx. 4.5′ x 2.5′

Laura and Josh had never met before the installation of the show, which seemed kind of shocking since their work, as different in execution as it is, has a very natural harmony. In addition to using similar color tonalities, Laura and Josh’s work both employs a sort of staccato compositional structure, as though their pieces were built out by the agglomeration of smaller separate parts being fused together to make one cohesive statement.

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Juxtaposition of Moriarty’s work with Weiss’s work.

Laura Moriarty’s “sculptural paintings” are made from encaustic or wax-based paint that she first applies to a separate surface. Then, once it is set up, she pushes and peels it off in chunks and sheets, at which point she manipulates these pieces of pure paint by rolling them up into tubes, balling them up into little egg-like shapes and cutting them into various lengths. She then builds these miniature worlds onto the backs of large wooden packing palettes.

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Sculptural painting by Moriarty.

The multicolored, psychedelic landscape that results is a very craggy, raw, and complex place, littered with organic structures that both jut skyward in colorful plastic towers and sink deep into dark, forbidding caves and ravines, where little gooey monsters watch from precipices in gangs. While some rolls of paint brought to mind little ossobucco bones and the jelly-like marrow that’s housed inside, other severed paint tubes created fields of skewed steps displaying little labyrinthine mazes in their cross-sections like riddles to be solved before you can pass. Maybe the thick and wonderful veil of paint odor in the air was beginning to take its toll on my mind, but I also thought of other fantastic scenes as diverse as James Ensor’s mask paintings, Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the great barrier reef, and one of those $100 fireworks deluxe family packs that you can buy in those tents out in the country.

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Close-up of sculptural painting by Moriarty.

Josh Weiss’s oil paintings also garnered a sort of 1960’s psychedelic sensibility. His use of geodesic-looking “systems,” glowing in dark chiaroscuro picture space, gives off a foreboding quality, like glowing markers leading one through a strange, uncomfortable dream. The geometric structures that populate his paintings seem to pop up like mushrooms at night, giving off the effect of creating patterns out of patterns.

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“A Home for Dragonflies,” by Josh Weiss. Oil on linen. 56″ x 56″.

This show can be viewed until the end of April at Grizzly Grizzly, 319 N. 11th St, 2nd floor, Philadelphia, PA.