May 4, 2024 - May 25, 2024

Esao Andrews

Beetle Shell (Gallery I)

Opening Reception with the Artist(s): Saturday, May 4, 2024 6:00-10:00pm

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‘Bettle Shell’
(Gallery I)

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Bettle Shell’, the first solo exhibition of new work from Esao Andrews in just over five years. Having worked together since 2008, and following his mid-career museum retrospective at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, this show is a bit of a homecoming and we are so excited for his fans to experience this new collection of paintings.

‘Bettle Shell’ features twenty new iconic works by Andrews. Staging a world of unlikely combinations and unexpected tensions, Esao revels in the surreal elasticity of the subconscious and its penchant for the poetically absurd. No hybrid is too unimaginable, no character too fantastic, no anthropomorphous invention too unthinkable. Objects, animals, and people are all dynamically animate and sentient, subject to the inexplicable rules of their living fictional cosmos.

Always one for compelling epilogues, Andrews has revisited past characters and themes throughout his career, building on earlier works and weaving a sort of narrative continuity throughout his output. Though the tone of his imagery often borders on the grotesque or even macabre, a literary impulse links Andrews’ works to the fabric of fable and myth, its folkloric threads binding it to something vaguely archetypal and collective in its haunting resonance.

Statement on the new ‘Bettle Shell’ series from Esao:
In this new body of work I’m sharing relics from an imagined world, playing on the scale of little lives and big lives coexisting. The title refers to a scarab beetle’s shell as both a piece of jewelry and as a pinned specimen in a case. Maybe the thought of an Egyptian Pharaoh or a science research library comes to mind or a thought about the little life the beetle had too.

Several pieces stand out as isolated monuments preserved like tiny fossils. Human pastimes now represented as ornaments on display.

About Esao Andrews:
Japanese American artist, and Mesa AZ native, Esao Andrews is known the world over for his minutely detailed and narratively suggestive paintings. Esao brings haunting imagery to life through his uniquely mannerist distortion of subjects, both human and animal, and the strange undertow of his desolate, Gothically inspired landscapes. Themed around homecomings, departures, and afflictive transformations, Andrews’ works feel drawn from the same collective imaginary reserves as myth.

Andrews lists diverse sources of inspiration for his work, everything from art history to skate counterculture. The immersive manga fantasies of anime master Hayao Miyazaki figure prominently among his influences, as do French 19th-Century Academic painting styles, particularly its neoclassical revisitation of myth and the tenebrous cast of its moody contrasts. Andrews also cites the heightened emotional drama of Gustav Klimt’s Symbolist Art Nouveau style and Egon Schiele’s Expressionistic sensual grotesque as other stylistic sources. Contemporary painters James Jean and Inka Essenhigh list among his inspirations too, as does visionary cartoonist Al Columbia for his masterful, ghoulish reinterpretations of Americana.

Esao attended New York’s School of Visual Arts where he studied illustration and completed a B.F.A in 2000. An accomplished figurative painter, he participated in the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 2002. The artist has worked commercially in tandem with his fine art practice which has, in recent years, grown to include large-scale murals, and produced iconic album cover artwork for American rock band Circa Survive. He has also created numerous comic book covers for DC’s Vertigo Comics, and memorable deck designs for Deathwish and Baker Skateboards.