Motion Arrested: Justin Brennan at HEDGE

Justin Brennan, Tina, 30 x 30 inches, Oil + enamel on canvas, 2022. Image courtesy of HEDGE Gallery.

Velocity stands still in the portraits and interiors by Justin Brennan in his solo show, Wide-Eyed, on view at HEDGE Gallery until June 30, 2023.

There’s flurry all awry here, in the unfinished movement of living. Portraits of the famous and not-famous gaze right back atcha, gallery-goer, triumphant in their purples and teals and blues and peaches. These armatures of color are dispatched in wide swathes of brush strokes that blur and wipe and blend. They build horizontal barriers of out of pieces of faces in which the eyes, always the eyes, remain static and clear and penetrating.

Remember the glitches of Max Headroom? These are his children, with the added intensity of perception. Capturing the person is a tricky number, and approximation always blurs.

Justin Brennan, Reverend Jim, 30 x 30 inches, Oil + spray paint on canvas, 2022. Image courtesy of HEDGE Gallery.

Reverend Jim snaps the intensity that remains after someone has spoken: mouth askew, atmosphere filled with the heavy hang of rhetoric in black and white against red. The good reverend almost fills the canvas, stepping into the frame on an angle on his way to somewhere. Rage is suspended here, as it is in the choleric greys and furious blues of Evil, Greedy, Bullshit. Here, the face’s glowering vibrations resonate against the stoic, saturated blue background, residual echoes of malevolent force.

And go stand near the lefthand corner of the gallery’s second room: here are the Three Furies—Tina, Jenny, and Michelle—for your delectation. They have you cornered and you cannot look away: each set of eyes rest in the same plane, vivid amid the ever-present blur, revealing themselves to you. Or maybe you to them, as the viewer becomes the viewed.

Justin Brennan, Jenny, 30 x 30 inches, Oil + enamel on canvas, 2022. Image courtesy of HEDGE Gallery.

Brennan’s portraits are studies in how to manage intensity between the four edges of a canvas. Residual echoes of personality balance between braced and embraced, as the heat inside somersaults outward in a vortex of heavy brush strokes, clear tones, and arrested motion.

Dear Landlord crouches at the ready, as the figure pushes against the limits of line or perhaps submissively waits, held in space. Little Things crackles with the electricity of orange and yellow slammed against a dark background that engulfs a couple wrapped in themselves.

Justin Brennan, Let it Loose, oil + enamel on canvas, 32 x 30 inches, 2023. Image courtesy of HEDGE Gallery.

A few interiors, like Let it Loose and Fireside Chat, are almost shocking in their linear regimentation: stuff doesn’t move, at least not like the portraits of people do. The heavy vertical lines of Let it Loose define the walls and upholstery of what may be an imagined motel room from the 1970s, the TV blank and waiting, door slightly ajar, but still, oh, so still. Fireside Chat freezes geometry, with its lines sharp and defined, a figure without a face that almost becomes yet another living room object.

Immerse yourself in the racked focus of living.

Wide-Eyed is at HEDGE Gallery, located within 78th Street Studios, 1300 West 78th Street, Suite 200, Cleveland 44102. HEDGE is open Wednesday and Thursday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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