T.L. Solien: Along the Way
Exhibition Dates: November 4, 2022 – January 13, 2023
Reception: Friday, November 4, 5:00-9:00 pm
Tandem Press is excited to host an exhibition of works on paper by Madison-based artist T.L. Solien. Solien has worked in the Tandem Press studio on two occasions, creating four editions of prints during those times. His most recent print The Spanish Chair belongs to a larger series of work Solien has been developing over the past few years. Featuring a selection of brightly colored abstract works from this series, Along the Way demonstrates an artist’s practice of persistent creativity.
As he approached his retirement from a twenty-three-year career as a tenured professor in the UW-Madison Art Department, T.L. Solien sat in class with his drawing students and worked alongside them to demonstrate an artist’s practice of persistent creativity. At the time, he was also becoming disinterested in the figural-dominant compositions which had informed his work for many decades. Instead, he wanted to explore figure/ground relationships in which the “figure” and its environment were intertwined and inseparable.
During his daily drawing practice, Solien drafted networks of lines in graphite across sheets of paper. As he edited these drawings, they developed structures like those found in stone pathways, walls, or patios. As he continued to work on the drawings and develop them further with gouache and watercolor paints, some of the forms began to suggest almost identifiable objects while others remained completely abstract. As they were such a departure from his previous work, these new pieces felt very foreign to Solien, but he found this new method of working to be highly challenging and satisfying. The process was full of moments of doubt, persistence, and excitement. As the development of the composition took precedence over and determined the final image, Solien discarded his dedication to developing a narrative within his work. Instead, each piece depicts a moment on a path, commenting that reaching the end is not the ultimate goal but that one must also relish in the moments of discovery that are found along the way.
Along the Way presents a selection of pieces, predominately works on paper, Solien created through this working process between 2019-2022. Several phases of this project are represented here, including works that are purely abstract and others that begin to depict objects or people. A few art historical references also appear throughout this body of work. Solien stated that he considered his working process to be comparable to Donald Judd’s meditations on the cube or Gene Davis’s choice to only use stripes of color to create his color field paintings. Pablo Picasso’s Cubist sculpture Chair from 1961, which seemed to be crushed from three dimensions down to two dimensions and then unfolded back to three dimensions, was a particular point of inspiration for The Spanish Chair. Solien shares with these artists a steadfast trust in the practice of persistent creativity, which was the impetus for this project from the beginning. By establishing parameters in which to work and asking questions such as “what is it, and how does it seem to exist?” without actually expecting to arrive at any concrete answers, Solien invites us, as viewers, to join him in this state of creative curiosity.
Since the late ‘70s, T.L. Solien (b. 1949, Fargo, North Dakota) has been linked to the continuing evolution of figural painting and has been grouped within the concerns of Neo-Expressionism, Neo-Surrealism, and New Image histories. A self-described artist of the “absurdist cultural critique,” Solien depicts the contemporary collapse of our culture in his work. Using expressive color and imaginative imagery, he often constructs paradoxical narratives with references to his Scandinavian heritage, family memories, and various references to art and literature of the past. Solien received his BA from Moorhead State University and his MFA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has received many honors and awards, including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art showed a 25-year retrospective of his work in 2008, and the Plains Museum in Fargo organized a touring exhibition of his artwork in 2013-14. His work is included in many private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, National Museum of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Tate Gallery, and others. T.L. Solien lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin.
This exhibition, along with all Tandem Press exhibition programming, is made possible through support from the Anonymous Fund.