Swipe Right on These "Abstract Technical" Artworks

Pro baseball player-turned artist Mike Nesbit’s 'SWIPE' paintings use silkscreens to cover concrete panels.

by Antonio Pacheco
15 November 2015, 1:20pm

SWIPE hanging at the Redcar Space. All images by SUPER // ARCHITECTS.

Like the swing of a baseball bat, the stroke of a paintbrush, or a shuffle through the latest crop of potential Tinder conquests, the swipe motion embodies the act of physicality, technique, and intent. In his most recent crop of work, LA-based artist and architect Mike Nesbit explores this generative action by using large silk screens to “SWIPE” paint across various media. The result, an exacting and meticulous collection of marks, is a study in nuance and repetition both intentional and derivative.

Nesbit’s SWIPE works are applied across a bevy of surfaces with an equally varied spectrum of pigments, from mille feuille-thin crisps of oil paint over paper to fondant-like appliques of acrylic paint over massive sheets of concrete, each resulting from identical swipes made by Nesbit and his cohort of collaborators.

Nesbit developed his SWIPE technique over hours of experimentation with constant repetition. An ex-professional baseball player for the Seattle Mariners who went to architecture school because it was ”something different,” Nesbit graduated from Southern California Institute for Architecture and now works as a project designer at the avant garde firm Morphosis.

At a special preview of the exhibition last week, Nesbit related his obsession with form and repetition to his sports training, citing “discipline in technique” as one of his driving forces behind his rigorous “abstract technical” method of working. And it shines through in his art: no two swipes are alike, visually speaking, a feature Nesbit harnesses by intentionally swiping some pieces over rugged or patterned surfaces, embedding the resulting works with bits of noise, sometimes evocative of the brick walls they were created over, other times, merely pulsing in low relief.

His new show at the Jai & Jai gallery in LA’s Chinatown, is an opera in two parts. The first is staged within an active construction site near the gallery. Six massive 12' x 8' concrete wall panels, detailed, and constructed by Nesbit himself according to architectural convention, are to be exhibited in this temporary gallery. Constructed on site with the help of a village of helpers, collaborators, and brawny creatives, these pieces shine with swipes of fluorescent paint evocative of a stoned California sunset.

Arranged and conceived as diptychs, the works hang from steel chains bolted directly into the building’s structure. The swipes hang in a row, designed to be framed by the building’s existing structural concrete columns; swiped directly on the exposed masonry walls across the room from these panels are somewhat smaller pieces composed of the former’s derivative colors. Patches of bright paint patterned after the concrete masonry unit (CMU) and brick walls behind, these pieces conduct a complex narrative that is made more apparent by the simplicity and mechanical nature by which they were created.

These “locationless yet site-specific” pieces contrast with exhibition’s second act hanging at the nearby Jai & Jai Gallery. Curated by sisters Jomjai Srisomburananont and Jaitip Srisomburananont, the works, when hung in a proper gallery exhibition, seem buttoned up and proper when compared with the dust and happenstance of the prior space. Made specifically for the gallery, these pieces are much smaller in scale than the concrete panel ones and incorporate abstract, random brushstrokes the artist describes as “frottages” overlaid atop swipes. Works on paper and smaller scale concrete panels can be found here, hung properly on white walls. In this context, the work seems at home with the artist’s stated intellectual forbearers: Motherwell, Kline, Reinhardt, and Richter.

The pieces, professional and academic instead of rugged, are byproduct of the artists’ discipline, he says, “by focusing on the technical, I remove my work far from Abstract Expressionism… instead I would call it ‘Abstract Technical.’”

Mike Nesbit and one of his SWIPE paintings

The exhibition runs from November 14, 2015 through January 2, 2016; hours for the gallery can be found here. "For any inquiries about Mike Nesbit's works and collection, please contact Jai & Jai Gallery. For more on Nesbit’s work, visit his website.