By Alec Clayton
There’s a new, big-little art exhibit in a tiny coffee shop. It’s Evan Horback and Jimmy Ulvenes at Bar Francis. Local art lovers will remember Horback from his big gorgeous show at Salon Refu (Now LGM Studio) almost a decade ago. Not long after, he moved away from Olympia, but now he’s back, and his latest work can be seen at Bar Francis along with paintings by Ulvenes.
“Jimmy’s paintings challenge ideas of perception and reality,” Horback says. “They are bold, vulnerable and unpretentious.” (Be it known that Horback’s collages also challenge ideas of perception and reality.)
Of this show, Horback says, “It’s difficult to summarize the degree of abnormality that the past few years has created for us. Artists, like basically everyone else in the community, process experiences in their own unique ways. Jimmy and I are calling this show ‘FLUX,’ because we want to reflect on the massive degree of change and uncertainty we’ve all been dealt.”
Horback continues, “In Jimmy’s work, you’ll immediately find recognizable scenes or identifiable objects. Some may be especially familiar for those in the Pacific Northwest. As we look, we quickly discover his paintings are created with inherent impossibilities. Imbalanced vases, geometric waves or the type of stylized landscapes that are probably more impressionistic than they are representational. Anyway, I don’t think replicating reality should be seen as Jimmy’s intention here. His sense of vulnerability and endurance are evidenced in these pieces.”
About his own work, Horback says, “As an art form, collage generates a different set of stimuli than that of painting. Rather than generate a unique idea and then work in layers to construct the image, my process has me journey through piles of amassed material.” He says his work tends to be “delicate & layered but searching for form and clarity.” Horback looks to vintage science education magazines and agricultural catalogues, layering with current events from sources like NPR. Nothing is off limits, even the pile of dishes in his family’s sink, he says. “We’ve all existed with a steady stream of uncertainty that has likely jolted us to our core. My collages are the result of processing survival & dealing with fatigue. All brought together with a glue stick.”
The big little show is comprised of 13 paintings by Ulvenes and six collages by Horback. Ulvenes’s paintings are realistic landscapes of trees, ocean and sky, along with two versions of a still life with flowers in a pink pot. The paint is laid on thickly, with a creaminess that brings to mind Wayne Thiebaud’s early paintings of pastries. The textures of his brushstrokes and the brilliant depiction of lights bring these images to life.
The uniqueness of Horback’s collages can be seen in the unexpected juxtaposition of images and words. There is one that is a beach scene with folded paper steps leading down to the beach. There is a collaged still life with a teapot and the almost unreadable word “realistic.” This collage hints at realism — but it is not. And what’s the opposite of a silhouette? The shape of a cut-out figure in white, or in Horback’s hands a falling figure ripped from the universe with nothing left but the negative shape where he once was. Much thought is demanded of those who would contemplate his work.
Bar Francis is a tiny coffee shop that’s not easy to spot, because there’s only a small sign on the window to identify it. It’s on Franklin Street between Fourth and State Avenues. It’s open mornings only, seven days a week.
Evan Horback and Jimmy Ulvenes paintings and collages
8 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, through Feb. 15
Bar Francis, 110 Franklin St NE, Olympia, WA 98501
Free, artwork for sale