A pivotal figure in the field of Conceptual Art, Charles Gaines’ body of work engages formulas and systems that interrogate relationships between the objective and the subjective realms. Using a generative approach to create series of works in a variety of mediums, he has built a bridge between the early conceptual artists of the 1960s and 1970s and subsequent generations of artists pushing the limits of conceptualism today.
Images of trees have figured prominently in Charles Gaines’s practice since the mid-1970s, when he first began plotting their forms through a system of numbered grids in the series ‘Walnut Tree Orchard’ (1975-2014). His methodical examination continues in the ‘Numbers and Trees’ Plexiglas series, which began in 1986.
Conceived and executed in recent months during this time of isolation, each work in this smaller-scaled series, ‘Numbers and Trees: Palm Canyon, Palm Trees Series 3’ (2020), is realized by overlaying the forms of trees one at a time and in succession. Following this process, each tree is assigned a distinctive color and a numbered grid that reflects the positive space of the tree. The back panel features an enlarged detail, or as Gaines refers to it, an ‘exploded’ image of the newest tree.
As the second tree in the series, this work features two distinct trees on the surface of the Plexiglas, and an ‘exploded’ image of the second tree featured in a color that presages the third tree in the following work. From a distance, these swaths of color form a cohesive presence on the grid. Upon approach, the work reveals the forms’ representational underpinnings and frameworks--a model that Gaines has consistently employed in his critique of systems and representation. An example from ‘Numbers and Trees: Palm Canyon, Palm Trees Series 2’ is in the permanent collection of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
Take a closer look at Gaines’s generative process and holistic approach to artmaking, following the artist from Palm Canyon near Palm Springs to his studio, and finally to his exhibition, ‘Palm Trees and Other Works,’ at our Los Angeles gallery. Gaines offers a unique view into his practice with insights from curators, peers, and collaborators including: Troy Carter, Collector & Founder CEO of Q&A Media, Inc., Naima J. Keith, Vice President of Education and Public Programs, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Fred Moten, Professor, Department of Performance Studies, New York University.