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Beneath the bruised figures and singed surfaces of Kirk Hayes’ paintings lies a quietly voiced defiance. An ontological whisper of “I am still here” reverberating through the dark humor and meticulous trompe-l’oeil. Droll’s Lament, Kirk Hayes’ sixth solo project with the gallery, lays bare that defiance across seven new paintings whose anger and aggression are belied by moments of tenderness and fragility.
The works seen here expose not only Hayes’ tragicomic world view but also his inherent optimism. In Ephemeral, a daisy with petals bearing burn marks and whose stem is blackened sags across the center of the picture. Yet a monarch butterfly, with heavily bandaged wings, clings to its stamen. A reciprocal relationship enduring despite heavy trauma. The butterfly makes another appearance – neatly tied-up in red string resting on a folded pillow – in a painting titled Accepting Fragility. A humble gift presented by arms covered in a constellation of Band-Aids. In Fall of the Dildo King and the titular painting, Droll’s Lament, flower growth appears from fleshy forms piled together in heaps signaling a cycle of genesis (and no doubt, cheekiness).
Indeed, Hayes’ palette has moved to darker and heavier tones in these new paintings. His surfaces appear more scarred and beaten. Like most of us, the intervening years from the artist’s last solo show until now may weigh heavily on him. But perhaps this exhibition is another example of Hayes’ resolve. As the world deals with pandemics, war, economic and ecological collapse, on top of the daily trials we all face, what could be more defiant than shutting it all out just long enough to make one beautiful, funny, and brutally honest painting? — Edward Holland
Kirk Hayes (b. 1958, Fort Worth, TX) lives and works in Fort Worth, TX. In addition to Horton Gallery, his work has been featured in exhibitions at the Nerman Musuem of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX; and The Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, OH. His work is included in public collections such as the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art, Dallas TX; The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS. Hayes is a recent recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. His work has been discussed in Art in America and The New York Times, among others.
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