Red Vines, 2017
Acrylic on panel
12h x 12w in
Living and working in San Francisco for many years, artist and curator Mel Prest has become acutely attentive to the optical phenomena offered by the region’s geography. The San Francisco Bay’s persistent fog, for instance, provides shifts in light and color that transform one’s sensorial experience of the city. An awareness for unique visual occurrences like these has greatly informed Prest’s artistic practice and serves as the basis for her solo exhibition, lux, opening in May at Galleri Urbane.
Featuring all new work made in the last year, lux pays homage to two cities whose atmospheric, geographic, and architectural qualities offer vastly different sensational impressions. The blankets of fog and floral scents of coastal San Francisco are reflected in paintings like Buttercup Aurora (2017), where the artist’s characteristic, hand-painted lines, applied in yellow and white, overlap in loose geometries to create a soft haze of subtle yellow. In contrast, the artist’s travels to Mexico City, with its brightly colored markets and buildings, come to mind in works like Barragán 3 (2018) in which lines of green and grey intersect to activate a viewer’s eyes with an oscillating energy. Composed of 38 solid-colored panels arranged to shift from pale pink to deep magenta to yellow amber, Bougainvillea (2017) references the vibrant hues found at the studio and home of
Mexican architect Luis Barragán. While many of the works reference these specific locales, Prest’s paintings always explore visual phenomena that occur as a result of one’s direct encounter with these objects. In some cases, Prest achieves this by enlisting the use of specifically engineered paint, like phosphorescent acrylics that glow in the dark or interference acrylics that shift hues when viewed at different angles, to provide the works with their own optical circumstances.
Other works, like Fuchsia Film (2018), investigate an ocular event called “film color” in which a non-corporeal color appears like a mirage after extended viewing of the painting. Taking inspiration from chance instances that transpire in the natural world, Prest’s paintings ultimately offer a unique ability to experience these rare moments time and time again.
Mel Prest is a non-objective painter whose work is focused on color and perceptual visual relationships and synaesthetic response. She received her BFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from Mills College in Oakland. Recent solo shows include: Lilac Aura at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary (2017); In Praise of Planetary Time at B Sakata Garo (2016) in Sacramento, COLOR CHANT at Chandra Cerrito
Contemporary (2015), Oakland; MoonBrightChime at Galleri Urbane (2014), Dallas. Her works have been included in group shows at: Saturation Point ACME studios, London, UK; The Drawing Center, New York, NY; The Weatherspoon Museum of Art, Durham, NC; Zeitgeist gallery, Nashville, TN; IS Projects, Leiden, The Netherlands; Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Prest has been awarded funded artist residencies at: Ragdale, The Sam and Adele Golden Artist Foundation, Willapa Bay AiR, The Wassaic Project and Vermont Studio Center, among others. As an independent curator, Prest has organized shows in
Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich and Zagreb. She is also a founding member of Transmitter, a collaborative curatorial gallery initiative in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.