John Uslé (Santander, 1954) is one of the leading protagonists of a generation of painters who, from the late eighties, accounts for much of the international critical attention. His work is recognised as one of the most evocative of his generation, with a very personal style linked to abstraction.
This retrospective exhibition includes some eighty paintings and thirty photographs from the last ten years of Uslé’s career, presented thematically, not chronologically. These works are dominated by a sense of the sensory and intellectual pleasure, where thought and action, the concept and emotion are introduced into a witty and sensitive game.
A harvester of genres increasingly interwoven such as painting, photography and graphic arts, Uslé has investigated the potential of a renewed abstraction to show his insight on reality, his fragmentation and contradictions, without ever neglecting his social commitment. Hence the multiplicity of the artist’s responses to the stimuli of a discontinuous reality.
During the Eighties Uslé’s painting evolves from an abstract expressionist style, coming from Willem de Kooning -a painting with robust brush strokes and aggressive colours- to dark, fascinating seascapes. These pictures somehow shape his solitary arrival to New York and how he establishes there his inner identity. His work changes in 1991, after two years of residence in this city. Romantic references to the landscape and any other Expressionism disappear from his work; he develops a highly personal language of simultaneous styles. His works are characterised from that moment by his single, intense and non-naturalistic colours, and by the alternation of gesture and geometry, simplicity and baroque, dynamism and immobility, features that can appear alone or together with its opposite, in all proportions possible.
Of a conceptual appearance, Uslé’s multiple spaces are on many occasions based on reality, as has been observed from the time his photography is made public, even if they involve more than memory, emotions, chance and dreams. His paintings incorporate a wide range of artistic historical references, sensory and mental impressions and various pictorial languages. Although the materiality of his painting is key in Uslé’s work, the result is not cold or indifferent.
Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander; SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor actuele Kunst, Ghent; IMMA, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin