Studio Proof: "The Evolution of Stripes"
If you’ve never visited Fresh A.I.R. Gallery, near the corner of Long and High streets downtown, the current exhibit “Evolution of Stripes” by Michael J. Halliday is just the excuse you need. Alright, you don’t ever need an excuse to see the work on display at Fresh A.I.R. — all from individuals affected by mental illness and/or substance abuse — because it’s occasionally provocative, usually charming and/or striking, and always interesting.
The series of large and small paintings by Halliday encompass all of these elements, a highly impressive accomplishment. “Evolution of Stripes” demonstrates Halliday’s recent examination of his abstract expressionism work and how it’s evolved. All the large-scale acrylic paintings were created in the last seven months, and evolved from Halliday’s earlier series, “Edges.”
Paintings from both the “Edges” and “Stripes” series are hung in Fresh A.I.R. to reveal the progress from one to the other. Halliday’s earlier “Edges” work is bold — thick and powerful brushstrokes of vibrant, churning colors. The “Stripes” pieces are far more minimal — a distinctive strip (or three) resting upon a quiet, tranquil background.
While the paintings initially appear drastically different, the relationship between the two series is evident. (Start with the “Edges” piece to the left of the front desk and move through a collection of smaller “Study” paintings — which encompasses both the origins of “Stripes” and elements of “Edges” — toward the back of the lobby, by the elevators, and then along the southern wall towards the front.)
The “Stripes” series shows an artist in a groove. It’s a wonderfully mastered collection of paintings that reveals both Halliday’s technical skill and a maturation that lets those skills utterly shine.
What’s most appealing about Halliday’s paintings at Fresh A.I.R. is despite their abstract minimalist qualities, there’s an emotive aspect to all. I sensed an artist making his way through a challenging evolution. There are instances of frustration or confusion, streaming right into the moment of serene triumph.
“The Evolution of Stripes” is open through Friday, April 10; Halliday will hold an artist talk from 4-5 p.m. that day as well.
Photo: “Untitled” by Michael J. Halliday