The earliest image-makers used airbrushes (or their Stone Age equivalents, reeds, and bones) to blow pigment, leaving flat portraits of their own hands. In his own hand-centered airbrush paintings, Alexi Worth has developed a technique that is both suggestively archaic and contemporary, reflecting on what it means for pictures to be handmade in an age when our iPhone cameras have become extensions of our hands.
Using flat, almost uninflected shapes and only three colors, Worth shows us a world between our fingers and our faces, a foreground world, claustrophobic, possibly solipsistic, haunted by what he calls “studio paranoia,” that is, the solitary artist’s fear that he is talking only to himself. At the same time, these pictures hint at the opposite--the possibility of social connection. Despite their nearly abstract language, they suggest a real-world situation familiar to us all: two people drinking, raising stemmed glasses to sip liquids that will dissolve awkwardness and facilitate conversation. This wineglass view has featured in Worth’s work for more than a decade, but here, for the first time, Worth has devoted a whole exhibition to variations on a single subject.
Though drinking is traditionally an emblem of intimacy, friendship, and courtship, Worth’s second drinker is unidentified, and the liquids in the two glasses tilt in opposite directions, suggesting an unbalanced, precarious, see-saw situation. Meanwhile, the prevalence of circular shapes elicits metaphysical and musical associations: the base or bowl of a wineglass might also be a CD, an optical lens, even a planetary orbit. Flatness and nearness, in these pictures, turn out to be haunted by volatility, depth, and distance.