Casper native Luke Whitlatch, a painter now based in Los Angeles, recently opened a show of paintings and drawings at Scarlow’s Gallery in Casper entitled Here lies the void I once knew. Whitlatch’s show acts as a space to remove oneself from the noise of fast-paced life by enticing the viewer to spend quiet moments with the artwork and visit a place of personal reflection.
Whitlatch’s abstract paintings manage to be both quiet and loud, peaceful and violent. Many of the compositions have a landscape-like quality, with vast open spaces that perhaps points toward the artist’s Wyoming upbringing. The openness of many of the compositions is contrasted by passages of thickly applied paint that seem explosive yet draw the viewer into the work both visually and physically.
As one steps closer to investigate the surface, the compositions fill the viewer’s entire field of vision. Whitlatch is adept at using contrast to grab the viewer’s attention. He masterfully manipulates the paint on the surface of each piece to create atmospheric depth contrasted by areas with dense, almost sculptural surfaces. This contrast creates a celestial depth in many of the paintings that lures the observer deeper into the images. Viewers encounter places that are so dense they feel foreboding even while inviting one to breathe and dive deeper into painting.
The titles offer information but leave plenty of room for discovery. In the largest piece on display entitled “And you will see their bones not separate yet from death,” dye and thinned paint bleed into the unprimed bleached canvas creating an ethereal space that is perhaps one of the most landscape-like passages in the entire show. The quietness of this is broken by a burst of bright color, hard-edged geometric forms, and more aggressive markings. From this passage a thread-like plume that could be described as smoke rises to the top edge of the painting. The eye tends to move into the fog-like background only to be immediately drawn back into the punctuating passage of the painting.
In his statement Whitlatch writes “These paintings are about what you thought you saw. They are representations of myth and storytelling… Information and myths that are passed from person to person often create a beautiful platform for hyperbole and personal reflection.” This kind of malleability allows the viewers to insert themselves into the work. There are multiple narratives within the artwork, some of which are more concrete and made clearer by their titles while others are left more open-ended by the relative vagueness of a title. Viewers are welcome to engage with each piece on their own terms. The negative space in the paintings supports this along with the occasional inclusion of fragments of more recognizable objects such as the house-like object in the painting “The man burned it down in ‘98.”
Scarlow’s Gallery continues to show exceptional work and Luke Whitlatch’s show is no different. The gallery is open 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturdays. If you find yourself in downtown Casper stop by for this excellent show running through August.