Finch Lane presented a showing of work by Layne Mecham in 2012 that was understood very much like the current show of works at Gallery at Library Square. Mecham’s earlier show displayed large canvases read as sizable bodies of cement, each with large diagonal yellow painted stripes, and even black spots to render the effect complete (chewing gum). The show articulated a pedestrian ambiance, something urban, an “outsider” approach that gave a sense of street life when physically, these were vacant crosswalks. The marginalized, the disenfranchised, the unseen, were the invisible subjects of the show, and the challenges of their everyday lives were something to think about, proportionate to the gargantuan effect of faux cement on canvases clinging to walls with a certain tenacity.
Mecham’s motif of cement, now at Gallery at Library Square, continues to compel and intrigue the senses, perpetuated here with sidewalks, not street walks, with no indication of urban pedestrianism. The mapping here is one of children’s drawings, rendered in chalk, some profusely colored, others nearly vacant. The playfulness of these naive works is raw, energetic, and bewildering, and the artist’s psychological perspective cannot be overlooked, forming much of his impetus for these paintings. This can be understood by reading Mecham’s artist statement; he cites two artists he admires, Picasso and Dubuffet. Quotes from both artists stress the advantages to artists of mimicking children and the freedom to think, act, and become like a child, without imposed rules or inhibitions. Mecham has accomplished this very same creative impulse, with large scale replications of side-walks, on which he has become invested in the subject of juvenile mapping, with an uninhibited candor and seriousness, having thought, acted and become as a child, with as much fun and caprice as surely the children whom would have rendered such.
“Helmand Poppies, Oxalis” is simply as odd as the title implies, sinuous, free and expressive; a sidewalk chalk children’s masterpiece. But with these assemblages, consider beyond the whimsical and the psychology of painting as a child, and more deeply assess aesthetic qualities of each of the canvases, and how they may be conceived with a formalistic, concerted point-of-view.
The cement-like layering is thickly adhered, leaving much texture on the canvas, with areas often left entirely unapplied. The chalk used develops ridges and surface texture on the canvas as it is utilized. However, creating a wall hanging in the form of a slab of concrete, that is absolutely flat, with chalk drawings having little texture, and surfaces that are entire; this is a replication of the illusion of a colored piece of sidewalk. Considering a contrived sidewalk surface that is thickly layered and recognizable as not being cement, drawn chalk upon it that leaves coarse ridges and texture, and entire areas that are left bare, this resonates a highly discernable painterly composition, as such. As Mecham functions, to create the appearance of a sidewalk, with the play and freedom of a child, having no aims of convincing, only psychological experimentation, this is to create works for their own sake, Modernist sidewalk and scribbles.