“Seinfeld,” the TV sitcom famous for being “about nothing,” is in my mind actually the iconic sitcom about America in the ’90s, concisely encapsulating a decade of American life. I apologize for bringing “Seinfeld” into the discussion; my point is simply that a show about nothing naturally ends up being about quite a bit more than nothing. But the concept of nothing, of course, extends far beyond “Seinfeld” — it has bedeviled philosophers, mathematicians and artists for centuries. I believe the desire for nothingness is in many ways akin to the desire for silence, in that both concepts are fundamentally impossible, which also goes a long way in explaining the allure.
In Greg Fadell’s show, titled “Nothingness,” up at Re:View Contemporary Gallery through May 26, the viewer is confronted with five towering canvases whose layered surfaces resemble in some respects TV static, or waves, or even brushed steel, and appear to have significant physical depth from layers of paint — but the surfaces are in fact impossibly flat, even smooth. The source of their lack of depth is a close-kept secret. As it turns out, Fadell produces his own paint, using a formula that he’s kept even from his gallerist. The effect is bewildering and mesmerizing and gorgeous. Although each piece features a relatively simple composition of either white paint on black canvas (or vice verse), the visual impact is electrifying.
So what are Fadell’s paintings about? One simple answer is that they are indeed about nothing, but these aren’t blank canvases hanging in a gallery. These are painstaking creations by an artist who has clearly obsessed over mastering an innovative and original technique. Each painting is a conscious act of creation, and creation is at the heart of what makes us human. At its most fundamental level, then, these paintings are about being human. But perhaps I’m just outwitting myself. The point is you should go see the work and decide for yourself. Then, if you’re curious about what the artist has to say about it, he’ll be speaking on Saturday, May 19 from 5-7 p.m. in the gallery.
“Nothingness” is on display through May 26. Artist Greg Fadell will speak on May 19 from 5-7 p.m. At Re:View Contemporary Gallery, 444 W. Willis, #112, Detroit; 313-833-9000 or email@example.com; reviewcontemporary.com