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Date Minted: October 30, 2020

Artist Description: Beauty in formation. Color by day, classic monochrome by night. 2048 x 1600

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Genesis, by James Fox, is a deeply beautiful, deeply affecting piece. It is a masterful symbiosis of color, movement, texture, and fluidity, and is, aside from its deeper merits, simply show-stopping even upon first glance. The way colors splash and waterfall and bleed; the way textures seem to be smooth and rough and fractured and silky all at the same time; the way the central image of a half-formed woman seems to be both borne from a confluence of the falling paint but also pushing up from out of it, altogether communicates a clarity of vision and an artistic ability of the highest order. Fox’s piece is paint and fire and river-flow; it’s darkness and dance. It’s really, really good.

Most striking is the piece’s physical composition, a masterful meditation on tension. Here we have two main interplays, those between colors and those between textures. Solid walls of green and blue spill forth from the top of the image, interweave themselves with separate strings of soft, Sea of Cortez color, and change suddenly, halfway down the piece, into oranges, pinks, and bright reds; these warm, fiery colors own the bottom half of the image, the woman’s breasts and below, her belly and hips, and fan out into a faint peacock tail behind her. After observing the piece carefully for a few moments, we start to see how the colors interact in less obvious ways. Though blue and green and turquoise and seafoam dominate the upper portion of the piece, if we look closely, we can see that they are pushing upwards and out from a faint orange glow, which hangs in the background like a gossamer fabric from which the colors emerge. Elsewhere, in the piece’s lower portion, small segments of red and orange peel back upon the woman’s arm and pelvis to reveal suggestions of grey and blue. 

Textures are as important as colors, and it’s fascinating that there’s no single dominant texture herein; everywhere you look throughout Genesis, there seems to be tension between rough and soft, smooth and fractured. The woman’s body, borne out of the paint it’s covered in, is coarse-skinned and almost flaky, as if the paint covering her is failing to stick in spots, or as if she’s already oversaturated in it. Long rivulets of paint descend down her shoulders, and glob around her ears, and ambiguously overlay the flat space where her face should be. We almost get the sense that the paint is overwhelming this woman, that even though she has emerged out of it, it clogs her nose and erupts over her eyes and blocks out the finer segments of her humanity, rendering her statuesque and un-emotive and, for lack of a better word, inhuman. We are left with only form, only posture, only stance, sans the markings of an individual person. She doesn’t even have a left arm; it is cleanly cut off at the elbow.

The conversation of color and texture is particularly rich when considering that Fox imbued the entire piece with a fundamental duality. Genesis is only colored by day; at night, literally between 7pm and 7am, the image is replaced by a monochrome facsimile, one where a chiaroscuro tension between light and dark replaces that which exists between colors in the daytime. It’s a fascinating, and shrewd, move, to highlight the various tensions in the piece by turning the piece into a tension itself, giving it two forms and having them be constantly replacing each other, engaged in an endless cycle of emergence and re-submersion. The aforementioned interplays all stem from each characteristic’s individual desire to dominate the piece, to stretch forward and claim larger tracts of it, and the resistance they feel when abutting other equally-powerful forces.  

Light and dark, smooth and rough, warm and cool, colors and textures and tones in a constant battle all throughout the piece. Genesis as the title, and from the center of the image emerges the incomplete form of a woman, dripping in color, uncertain in texture, her bottom half engulfed in darkness, her cranium haloed by white light.

It’s probably fruitful to discuss the religious undertones of the piece, unavoidable when titling something Genesis. Any overt Biblical reference like that is going to send us into further examinations of light and dark, good and evil, formation and destruction, especially when the top half of the image, closes to some theoretical heaven, is awash in light and bright colors, whereas the bottom half, “Hellish” if you will, engages in devilish, red hues. Ain’t that just classic Judeo-Christian imagery: A woman’s body splattered in red paint; Nathaniel Hawthorne would be proud.

The fundamental question asked by these dualities is: Can one exist without the other? Do we notice the smooth texture of the paint splatters in the upper left corner of the piece —do they look nearly as...well...appetizing?— if there isn’t so much antithetical texture elsewhere? Do the blues not pop because of the reds? Can there be an above without a so below?

I’m not sure Fox intended to have that kind of conversation outwardly, but by engaging with A) the Biblicality of the title and imagery, and B) the constant dualities within the piece and in its environment, it would seem irresponsible not to expound upon this notion. Though ultimately, it doesn’t make much difference. This piece can, and maybe should, be appreciated solely on its aesthetic merits, for the texture is complex and the colors thoughtful, beautiful, evocative, and the image in the piece’s center even more so. All of this is only to say that there is this second world underneath the piece’s skin, if we’re so interested in exploring it, one which crawls over with a hundred invitations towards religious, if not philosophical, dualities. Nothing is certain, however. It’s all, like the subject itself, in a state of constant reconstruction.

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