Although Bryan Schellinger's first solo exhibition at Quality Pictures focuses on a new body of paintings, there is one important departure. On the floor in the center of the gallery, hundreds of black gumballs are contained in a white frame. The arrangement of tiny spheres creates a mosaic-like effect, but it also provides an enlightening—if esoteric—commentary on Schellinger's new work. While one might expect the gumballs to encompass a rainbow's range of colors, the fact that they are uniformly black makes them seem like something else entirely—more industrial than enticing or sugary. But they are candies: objects that promise sweetness underneath that obscuring exterior.
Inspired by the formal preoccupations of op art and minimalism of the '60s and '70s, Schellinger's previous work has been most notably dominated by candy-coated palettes of vibrant, electric-charged colors. But these new paintings, created since the artist relocated to Portland from Atlanta a year ago, are far more subtle and hushed, glazed over with a meticulously applied coat of white.As such, colors lurk, silenced, beneath a foregrounded bed of white brushstrokes. In "PDX-#1.07," cool glass-bottle greens whisper beneath the white, while reds, pinks, and stripes of cornflower blue shine through in "PDX-#2.07." Across the gallery, they are meditative, barely there paintings, but, up close, they are revealed to be densely organized, even active compositions.
Most of Schellinger's deeply worked surfaces are vertically oriented, with tightly packed lines stretching across the four-by-four-foot panels. Such geometric minimalism conjures a kind of ghostly architecture. It's as if a viewer is peering into a glass house, in which the play of reflections and layered surfaces create a lattice of overlapping lines. It's testament to how Schellinger's attempt to obscure his work beneath a foggy veneer actually improves it. Just as it requires a viewer to approach the panel, quite literally, it also demands closer scrutiny for critical interpretation. The brash directness of his former paintings may have been as instantly gratifying as a sugar high, but this new body of work is far more substantial and, ultimately, satisfying.