Alex Gardner

'Guest Room'

The SCAD Museum of Art presents "Guest Room," the first museum exhibition in the U.S. by artist Alex Gardner. In recent years, Gardner has gained widespread attention for his bold painting style. This exhibition presents a selection of Gardner’s most recent work, along with new pieces commissioned for SCAD deFINE ART.

Combining a distilled aesthetic sense, a potent narrative capacity and an assortment of emotional landscapes, Gardner’s paintings present eloquent compositions that speak beyond their two-dimensional condition. His style has been often associated with Mannerism, a 16th-century, post-High Renaissance art movement that privileged gesture over representation, and indulged a particular stylization of figure over the technical obsession of the great masters of High Renaissance. In that sense, Gardner has developed a vocabulary of elements including color tones, seemingly architectural spaces, vegetation and a series of genderless, featureless dark figures. Together, these elements are in continuous movement, affecting each other and ultimately creating cryptic narratives — which perhaps say more about who is reading them and how. Inasmuch as Gardner’s work is in clear dialogue with the history of human representation in art, it is also connotative of current conflicts about race, gender, desire and the technological mediation of the body. In addition, the titles of Gardner’s works suggest familiar places, or what appear to be character identities, boosting the hazy environment and creating new layers of questions in the already ciphered scenes.

Alex Gardner exhibition image for SCAD define art
Alex Gardner, “Tall Cans,” acrylic on canvas, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and The Hole, New York

For "Guest Room, " Gardner has thought about the specificity of Gallery 109 at the SCAD Museum of Art and the way one navigates the space. With this in mind, each of the canvases becomes a portal or, in Gardner's words, a "hotel room you are opening, a vignette of an interpersonal interaction, a private moment you are glimpsing." His acknowledgment of the spectator is a critical point of the show. It opens questions about the negotiation between the strange and the familiar, and about the shared feelings within intimacy and hosting. It also suggests an interesting relationship, even an interchangeability, between figure and space. The spaces Gardner creates are close to what French philosopher Michel Foucault described as "heterotopias," or places that are elsewhere and that can represent several incompatible sites and times at once. For Foucault, these slices of time break traditional notions of space and time. That is precisely what Gardner’s paintings allow: intimate gestures of communication and proximity, frozen in front of us, in an undetermined space.

"Guest Room" offers a generous introduction to Gardner’s lexicon, and an opportunity for the audience to encounter a unique, expressive painting style. In a time where we are constantly reminded about our differences, Gardner’s ability to construct narratives outside the constricting limits of identity inspires broader forms of perception of what is otherwise rigid and unmovable.

This exhibition is part of SCAD deFINE ART 2019, held Feb. 26–28 at university locations in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.

About the artist

Portrait of SCAD deFINE ART guest Alex Gardner

Alex Gardner is a figure painter who works in acrylic to make intense and memorable scenes. His entangled ink-blacked bodies are draped with dramatically folding white cotton separates and posed in pastel environments where the reflections of color produce subtle gradients and thoughtful tonal shifts. As in Mannerist paintings, they capture drama with their bodies through the distortion of torsion, a clump of muscle, a knobby knuckle or a languid wrist. Over-articulated fingers and feet contrast with completely featureless, smooth faces; expression is portrayed only through body language. Gender is hinted at, but as with the skin, clothes and the environments, all cultural signifiers are smoothed over to de-individuate and universalize. Recent solo exhibitions include "RomCom" at The Hole gallery in New York, New York, "Laugh Now Cry Now" at New Image Art in Hollywood, California and "What is your reason for visiting?" at The Dot Project, London. Gardner earned his B.F.A. at California State University in Long Beach, California, where he currently lives and works.

Install Views


"Guest Room" is curated by Humberto Moro, SCAD curator of exhibitions.

Museum Admission

The exhibition is free for all museum members, and SCAD students, faculty and staff with a valid SCAD Card. Open to the public with the cost of museum admission.

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