2nd Year Reviews: Zach Coneybeer by Grace Strattan

A quick walk-by of Zachary Coneybeer’s studio tells a person a couple of things: This is an artist that owns books, tools, and enjoys square paintings. The body of work is made up of abstract paintings that are reminiscent of aerial landscapes that have hard-edged shapes of color woven throughout the painting; paintings of the same style have a final sprayed glaze of a single color on the surface. This acts as a lens, skewing the colors underneath towards the hue of the glaze.

On the Square: All of the paintings in view are square except for one. The canvas is an object in Coneybeer’s work. This is emphasized by the fact that they are all the same proportion. The edges of several canvases are painted a contrasting color to offset the front plane of the painting and to separate the painting from the wall. The square canvases balance a composition that is made mostly of texture. There is no side that is up or down, left or right by necessity. There is, as well, a common size of shape for the artist, or at least a size relationship between the shapes and the scale of the canvases—they are in similar proportion—it is rare that these are not rectilinear shapes of color.

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On Color: The color Coneybeer employs is most often saturated and if not saturated, then still pure even if devoid of color. Color is one of the more important elements of this work if one looks at formal aspects. The paintings do not have much value or contrast of value, there is no scale shifts happening or interesting areas of line quality, not many variations of shape, or even really a composition. There is only color. And texture. Color and texture.

On Texture: Texture is abundant in Coneybeer’s work. Layers and layers of marks add to the dimension of the paint and never leave space. Even in editing the work there is another layer added—not subtracted. Texture builds history. A viewer can read the artist’s hand in this work and the pattern of the texture tells one that the marks are more often calculated than not. The texture presents as rectangles and squares of color outlined or cut in half by a thin line. The color and the texture come together to support the concept.

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On Concept: The paint is very dense, there is no room to breath in these paintings, for a viewer to enter or exit through the composition. It is apparent, because of the device of the glaze that is used again and again, that the concept is as important as the painting itself. The final gesture of the glaze can be read in several ways. One way to read it is that it is a way to freeze the view given to us by the painter. A second is that it effaces the painting that it was and makes it something new. Given the impenetrable nature of the application of paint my own view would be that the work is meant to be viewed but never to be entered—the death of the viewer, if you will, as opposed to the death of the author. And the final glaze acts as a barrier between the artist’s world and the viewer’s. It is the point at which everything changes. Or is it the point at which everything stays the same?

To learn more about Zach’s work and his process please visit http://zachconeybeer.tumblr.com/

As part of the second-year graduates’ Thesis Projects I course, candidates were each assigned two of their cohort to review. As students begin writing their thesis papers and constructing artist statements, this review process proves to be beneficial twofold. Students not only exercise their written critique skills, but are able to read about their own project from other voices. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting these reviews, so be sure to visit regularly for insights and photos of the second years’ progress!

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