If Frank Gaard has a thing for panties and ponies, both of which thread through his work, he’s even more obsessed with color. For those familiar with Gaard from his longtime involvement with the Art Police zine, Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy is a survey of the artist’s work to date that offers a look at the full scope of Gaard’s output going back to the 1970s, with an emphasis on his use of color.
“People look at the images because they are evocative, but you could also look at the color,” says curator Betsy Carpenter, who worked closely with Gaard to put the exhibition together, drawing on his collections and the artist’s private archive to include work that has never been exhibited before. “[Gaard] uses a color palette that’s really saturated and moves the eye. . . . He thinks a lot about what it means to create light through color.”
The exhibition includes about 50 paintings and portraits, along with many samples from the zine and his sketchbooks, and is organized by such broad categories as portraits, large-scale paintings, new work, and Art Police contributions. Carpenter has given serious thought to where to place Gaard on the art historical continuum. “He fits and he doesn’t fit,” she says. “That’s the beauty and power in what he’s doing.” One connection is the Chicago Imagists, who were known for their color, graphic aesthetic, satirical bent, and grotesque surrealism, all of which is echoed in Gaard’s own take on art history and politics. Another important influence is Pop Art pioneer Peter Saul, who mentored Gaard at the California College of Art.
The comically large heads vibrating with color, the hypersexual bodies, the panties and ponies that recur in Gaard’s work—all of it falls along a continuum rooted in a determination to dig deep into the dark corners of the psyche. “There’s a humorous edge and a deeply dark side,” says Carpenter. “[His jokes] aren’t just one-liners.” Jan. 26. Walker Art Center, 612-375-7763, walkerart.org