Intimate portraits

Relationships form the core of les caison III’s latest show. Day & Night yields coy glimpses into a world of flirtatious first encounters, newly established emotions, and firmly rooted togetherness.

caison is based in Asheville, and you may have seen his large-scale works adorning the walls of local places such as The Golden Horn Restaurant and The City Bakery. His current show at Dirt & Sky People Gallery encompasses two series, “Urban Lounge” and “Relationships in Meadows.”

Though the graphic style varies from the first series to the second, the overall theme remains distinct. “Urban Lounge” is set in a world of bars and nightclubs. Here, there is a sense of growing closeness in the subjects. These unions are new, and the figures speak volumes with their loaded poses — never fully in motion, yet each filled with obvious, individual life. The backgrounds are nearly abstract things, just out of focus, obscured by tables and drinking glasses and always hinting at a further mystery dwelling just beyond the frame.

In many ways, “Relationships in Meadows” has the opposite feel. In this series, the subjects are fully realized, and though they retain the sense of potential movement and life, they are relaxed and unhurried. The graphite-outlined figures are close to one another, comfortable, and at peace. These people have long, intimate stories already behind them, and none are in a rush to share those tales with the viewer. Gone is the nightclub buzz of “Urban Lounge,” replaced by the enduring line of the horizon. The tones have a natural cast to them, all evoking a feeling of twilight.

On one level, caison’s show is amazingly straightforward. In his own words, it’s about “love of self, and love of self with another.” The statement rings true: The figures are either clearly separated, or so closely arranged that they’re nearly melded.

Look closer and you’ll find the theme he’s working — new, developing relationships versus established bonds — embedded in the deepest parts of the works. In “Urban Lounge,” the layers of focus play off layers of near-geometric abstraction. Muted blues and oozing reds play supporting roles to the foreground browns, pinks and whites; one figure’s proud Afro haircut complements orbs of seemingly out-of-focus light. Each element in these paintings speaks to another element. Neither indecipherable nor flatly representative, the works simply narrate — and caison’s voice, throughout, is strikingly clear.

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