Tony Bluestone, Miles Debas, Gabrielle Graessle and Michael Swaney

39 Lispenard St

August 5 – September 3, 2022

Freight+Volume presents Plays Well With Others, a group exhibition featuring works by Tony Bluestone, Miles Debas, Gabrielle Graessle and Michael Swaney at the gallery’s 39 Lispenard St. location from August 5th through September 3rd, 2022.


Plays Well With Others delineates a notion of termless play where seemingly anything can be transmogrified by the creative imagination. The subjects on view range from jump roping, to toy-like cochecito, to readymade garden vistas, to imaginatively reconstructed stills of movie screens. Embracing all these things and more, Plays Well With Others fosters a notion of inclusivity which recalls perspectives and attitudes ordinarily found in children's art, where the world tends to become hauntingly defamiliarized, creatively transformed, and larger than life.  


Play is play; but the work of reabsorbing acculturated symbols is more difficult than it might at first seem. Miles Debas’s handling of paint and line has an almost sculptural quality about it. View Home, for instance, looks as though the viewer could reach into the space delimited by the work and manipulate color and form from the inside. View Home is carefully crafted to preserve a sense of ambiguity, to be transparent and impenetrable equally, whereby viewers can imaginatively enter into the work spin narratives about its origin. 


Gabrielle Graessle's paintings openly display a kind of hypercathexis where the symbolism of language, coupled with the entrancing aspects of consumer goods, combine in the manner of a painterly sigil. Utilizing crafts-like, almost plastic materials – such as acrylic paint and glitter – her painting 123456789101112 shows the truncated torso of a girl jumping rope. The numbers displayed in the picture are like thought balloons, synesthetically enumerating the girl’s movements up and down. Another of Graessle's paintings, Birkin Bag, comes alive with bright, almost fauvist-inspired colors. A furtive sense of animation reaches across the grid where Graessle's Birkin Bag has its place. Like a living object, the words written on the canvas seem to call out to the bag, highlighting its physical absence while summoning it into being. 


Michael Swaney, for his part, distills chaotic details into a sort of cartoonish shimmer, both furtively animate and deadpan, which showcases both the specificity of the subjects that inspire him and the craftsmanship of his handiwork. His Cochecito series puts to use the same materials that one might give to children in a K-8 art class: ballpoint pens, crayons, pastels. Other works, such as 4 Likes, 4 Dislikes, describe everyday life in archetypal yet playful ways, commenting on the potentials for love and malfunction which underlie the technologies giving shape to both city and suburb. 


Relatedly, the paintings of Tony Bluestone, such as A League of “Their” Own, unpack like a strange, defamiliarized reflection staring back at the viewer. In wry, subtle ways, the significant details of the painting, however familiar at first sight, can only provoke surprise. The spectacle of queering a movie about baseball is transcribed in terms of a frame within a frame, which only serves to highlight another, ongoing reality working to shape itself beyond the viewer's line of sight. 

Each artist in Plays Well With Others responds to the sheer strangeness of living alongside the material presence of our world. Out of the tangle of this bemusement a decided clarity emerges, an approach to life rooted in children's art and play. Across each work, snippets of everyday life, including love, joy, and melancholy, are transformed into ludic statements about what it means to be mindful of novel opportunities and circumstances which are only visible through the eyes of a child.