March 19 - April 30, 2022
The Pit is pleased to present Dreamer, a solo exhibition of paintings by Howard Fonda that celebrate Earth’s insanely rad beauty by populating pointillistic portraits of goddesses, plants & animals with wilderness, natural history, and pastoralism. This new body of work continues Fonda’s habit of depicting heavy duty events — birth, death, spiritual transcendence — with subversively bright strokes of short + sweet, that welcome viewers seeking hypnosis through visual anesthetics. But in keeping with the world’s finest paintings and religious iconography, eye candy and gravitas peacefully coexist here. Gorgeous color choices claw up surfaces, as if a voracious honey badger is remodeling Seurat. Wide lexicons that blend New Age and Native American celebration undermine and renew cliché with a special type of sincere syncretism that comes from deep wells of authentic emotion, historical awareness, and investment in social justice. Divine seers, entombment, animal messengers, the erudite perfection of a floral arrangement — Fonda considers how archetypes slip into pop cultural usage, sometimes imperiling historical context.
This candid approach to subject matter is reiterated in Fonda’s painting techniques, about which he has said: “I wanted to make the work direct and honest. I wanted viewers to be able to see the process and eliminate a hierarchy of material layers. Everything is essentially on the same plane, laid wet into wet. Mistakes can't simply be covered, they must be addressed and integrated into the composition. I came to enjoy the tension, the tight rope walk of failure…I'm really drawn to work that risks or exposes failure.” With a history degree, he always has his “eye on the past - particularly the maligned, the powerless, the persecuted. With some pause, I'm also drawn to things that are distinctly "American" — Transcendental thought, jazz, African-American history, and the indigenous peoples of this part of the world.” Fonda’s brushy morse code lends flora and fauna scenes, in particular, cosmic audibility. Small still lifes featuring early spring floral bouquets — campanula, tulip— camouflaged against densely patterned vases, tables, and walls triple-translate histories of botanical ornamentation while still, somehow miraculously, evoking disorienting dimensionality. Jungles are harmonious utopias, chirping and howling Rousseau-style. Upside-down tree of life, rainbow birth canal sharing hand-mirror space with a skull, multi-eyed seers and haloed mothers all nod gracefully to Vanitas by scooping Medieval Art into a casual array that equally suits ancient altar and t-shirt graphic. Nice, weird, delicious, and spooky, these visionary works irresistibly yield to play and love.