A year ago, the Los Angeles-based artist Aaron Curry made a big return to painting with a new series of cartoonish heads that evoked his signature sculptures – 'a really basic idea of portraiture' he calls them – at London’s Michael Werner Gallery. Shortly after that show, however, he began reading Carl Sagan, and thinking a lot about science fiction and contemporary CGI, and the 'cosmic orgies and celestial nurseries' creating the galaxies beyond us.
'Living in California, it’s extremely obvious that the earth is going through a change right now, and that got me thinking a lot,' says Curry. 'The Earth is going to continue and be something without us for millions and millions of years until the sun burns out.'
Working with these far out concepts, the early aesthetics from his days as a San Antonio skate punk and the formal language of his collage-based sculptural practice, Curry emerged with 'Starfuker', his first Los Angeles solo show in five years, at David Kordansky Gallery. 'It’s always been a collage-based practice for me,' says Curry, who started the work by making paper cut-outs last March, which he used for a series of monumental matte black aluminum-steel sculptures (created with digital renderings and fabricators) that break free from the XYZ axis he’s used over the past decade.
The two pieces at Kordansky – Starfucker and Creator Creator – move into torqued planes that are festooned with familiar icons (cones, grids, anchors, tubes) and Curry’s clipped shapes (cutting into the sculptures and protruding from them) that warp, hollow, and bend depending on your perspective while evoking Joan Miró and Joan Jett in the same breath.
'I started thinking about different volumes and different ways to use space,' says Curry, who drew some inspiration from the Richard Serra sculptures in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as vintage black-and-white pictures of old church altarpieces. 'By making them black, they’re just sculpture and form, but then when you go into the other room colour reveals itself.'
Working with the Gilles Deleuze concept of space folding, the Alpha-Omega opening of the Bible and Sagan’s all-encompassing theory of the cosmos, Curry turned more of his collage clippings into CNC-milled shaped canvases – 'to keep the awkwardness and the freeness to your hand' – that attempt to capture 'this tornado that’s moving through space... fucking stars and eating them'.
To create this 'Starfucker' visual language, he began painting his shaped canvases with Picasso-esque harlequin patterns ('to create a fabric of space'), spray-painted starbursts, brushed abstractions that mimic digital markings from afar (and primitive, if painterly, brushstrokes up close), with various plays on light, perspective and dimensionality via celestial fields of black and day-glo that confuse the fore and backgrounds. 'I like this play of the brushstroke that creates a confusion where it becomes an image of a stroke or a brush of light,' says Curry, who considers this work a breakthrough. 'I’m really happy with this show, even if nobody likes it. For me, I really feel like it all came together.'