Up until June 19th, 2021, Shrine in NYC is presenting Screen Door on a Submarine, arguably the most elaborate presentation by Derek Aylward to date. Borrowed from an old saying that points out the futility of a certain idea, the title of the show is self critically and humorously questioning the meaning, the importance, and the purpose of the artist’s practice and his prolific output from the past year or so matching the immediacy of his technical approach.

As we’ve mentioned recently when covering Aylward’s recent limited edition release (https://www.juxtapoz.com/news/painting/backhand-a-bit-off-a-variable-edition-by-derek-aylward/), the artist went through somewhat of a personal renaissance during the year of lockdowns. “When COVID first hit and we were all in isolation I started manically painting the colorful faces. To me, they are the culmination of the anxiety and uncertainty of these times,” the artist stated about the works which switched to crowded scenes after persistently working with signature single face trope for a while. Sometimes starting from that same face, sometimes from puzzling together a variety of shapes reworked into figures, they are showing his interest in continuous exploration of the variability as well as the possibilities and limitations. Such an approach can be noticed in Gang, 2021, in which the main protagonist faces up a group of figures depicted through simple, nonrepresentational forms. Through a vigorous color scheme and a series of suggestive elements such as a pointing finger, a rope, or a smoking pipe, the artist quickly pulls this semi-abstract composition back towards figuration. Comparably, by adding a stronger sense of perspective in Untitled or Fight Night, both 2021, he is transforming a tennis court or boxing ring scene into a riotous celebration of shapes and colors, as well as ways of applying and manipulating the paint.

And whether working with a single face motif, studying new subjects such as gators or beasts, or assembling the crowd scenes, the persistence and intensity of Aylward’s method are what makes these pieces so compelling. Purposely leaving traces and scars of his process, both his creative “wins and losses,” this body of work can be seen as an encoded diary of his practice. With layers of different hues unveiling the quest for the right color combinations, the determined outlines disclosing his love for drawing, the expressive brush strokes and paint drips freezing the immediacy of his process, and the variety of techniques exposing his curiosity and urge to explore, the sense of urgency is radiating from these vibrant paintings. Evoking the aesthetics of a wide range of influences such as folk art or graffiti, but also giving nods to Picasso, Basquiat, George Condo, or Rose Wylies, they are a celebration of painting as a medium as well as a demonstration of its prospects. Filled with contrasting elements such as cartoon-like humor and seriousness, occasional precision and raw expression, calculated placement and impulsive mark-making, the pieces are pushing forward the tension as the essence of it all. “Things can feel ridiculous and serious at the same time, and I think when I achieve that feeling through my work, I am most satisfied with what I have made,” Aylward stated recently and this exuberant body of work fully confirms such a sincere affirmation. —Sasha Bogojev