Dylan Roberts - Dirt Club

by Justin Montag

 

FRANCHISE will present “Dirt Club,” a solo exhibition of new and recent work from the Los Angeles-based artist Dylan Roberts. On view at the gallery’s 977 Chung King Road location from March 25 – April 22, 2023, the presentation will bring together 25 of Roberts’ new and recent heat-transferred monoprints and mixed-media collages.

Dylan Roberts’ pictures speak in our modern language: screenshots of Google Earth maps, cellphone photography, highly-saturated internet graphics. Their vocabulary is at once familiar and skewed, recognizably, decidedly human, yet made strange by their deeply layered construction and hallucinatory palette. Divorced from their source material and overlaid with snatches of text, swooping parabolas, and vibrant, at times lurid color, they become something new and resolutely themselves. Echoes of their past lives persist but are drowned out. They exist as total products of their time.

Some pieces, with their grid systems and intersecting bands of looping color, can suggest maps, though the places to which they refer don’t exist. This is a cartography of unvisitable vistas, psychogeographies that relate more to a state of mind than a pinnable latitude. Elsewhere, Roberts locates his images in real sites—crude structures stumbled upon off the highway or in the woods in the artist’s Los Angeles, their rudimentary forms calling back to the unassailable truth of geometry: square, triangle, cube. These structures are decidedly removed from society — off-grid, socially, but not completely, spatially. The collision of the real and the imagined results in an anxious energy, an unplaceable uncertainty that reverberates as our collective mood.

These works live in an in-between state. The collision of digital and analog materials—Roberts’ cell-phone pictures, blown-up and printed—both negates the artist’s presence and embeds it within the canvas. The pictures’ raised canvases, their visual information bleeding to their edges and cascading down their sides, transcends their status as paintings, pushing them into objecthood. Sequentially numbered, they’re given the gloss and seriality of trading cards, though what exactly they’re memorializing remains unresolved. Elsewhere, Roberts’ canvases degrade into total context collapse, a riot of color, line, and form. Their geometric scaffolding recalls the constructivist forms of Moholy-Nagy and the technicolor ecstasy of comic book panels in equal measure.

At the root of Roberts’ project is an anthropological engagement with image making. His dense visual constructions sample the elements of our built environment, and so become a study of its contours. They press against the boundaries within which we find ourselves, with the very tools with which we mediate our relationship to it.

These are environmental concerns. These are images that can only exist thanks to the ways we have irrevocably altered the landscape of the physical world. Roberts’ work presents alternate landscapes, not as they belong to some utopic future but how they are truly experienced in the psychic now — an inorganic biosphere of our own patchwork, algorithmic design. Roberts’ collages ask how the structural and material reality of the areas from which they derive affect

our cognitive state, how our connection with those surroundings are altered, amplified, or deteriorate. They ask how we learn to live in the shadow of the Anthropocene.

Dylan Roberts (b. 1989, Houston, TX) lives in Los Angeles, California. He earned a BFA in painting from the University of Houston in 2012. He has held solo exhibitions at venues including Franchise, Los Angeles; Best Western, Santa Fe; and Swish Projects, San Diego. His work has been included in group shows at Pablo Cardoza Gallery, Houston.