a83 presents the work of architect Anthony Ames

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a83 presents the work of architect Anthony Ames
Ames, Hulse Panel A, 1987. Acrylic on plywood, 48 x 48 in.

NEW YORK, NY.- a83 is presenting the work of Anthony Ames in the new exhibition Fifty Paintings. Ames is a practicing architect and artist in Atlanta, Georgia and has operated the architectural office Anthony Ames Architect since 1976. The work of Ames’s artistic practice lies between still life painting, collage, and sculpture, his signature style centers on his ability to represent the mutable nature of spatial perception. Ames employs an incredibly consistent palette of colors and invents clever compositions that undermine the stability of the picture plane.

Ames’s work employs overlap, occlusion, convergence, and diminution as illusory devices invoking “phenomenal transparency” defined by Gyorgy Kepes in 1944 and elaborated on by Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky a decade later. As opposed to literal transparency Rowe and Slutzky write about phenomenal transparency as “a condition to be discovered in a work of art … the transparent ceases to be that which is perfectly clear and becomes instead that which is clearly ambiguous.”[1] That which is phenomenally transparent in Ames’s paintings oscillates between deep and shallow space. The compositions resist a singular reading and invite viewers to exercise their perceptual abilities as they navigate the works.

Ames realizes both his paintings and his interiors with Pratt & Lambert acrylic latex house paint, available in a set range of colors and which he does not mix. The fixed palette of color fields within the paintings and the painted walls on which they are hung relate, compliment, or even match, producing the effect of continuity between architecture and architectural representation. In select compositions columns–represented either in relief or in elevation–operate according to pictorial logic the same way a structural column would by interrupting and occluding an area of the scene. This interruption prompts viewers to visually interpolate the missing information, presenting the opportunity to introduce spatial ambiguity, the paintings flicker between multiple potential spatial resolutions.

Anthony Ames’s buildings and paintings are a continuous compositional effort, each medium informing the other. The consistency and duration of this multimedia project opens itself up to debate about where the painting practice ends and the architectural discipline begins. Ames’s work challenges the disciplinary boundaries of art and architecture by orchestrating the convergence of canvas[2] and building.

Anthony Ames’s Fifty Paintings exhibition at a83 includes forty-seven paintings produced between 1985 and 2022, three serigraph prints produced with John Nichols Printmakers & Publishers at 83 Grand Street in 1989, a seven-piece porcelain set produced by Swid Powell in 1990, and the accompanying monograph published in 2021.

1. Rowe, Colin, and Robert Slutzky. “Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal.” Perspecta 8 (1963): 45–54.

A further level of interpretation … is admirably defined by Kepes in his Language of Vision: “If one sees two or more figures overlapping, and each one claims for itself the common overlapped part, then one is confronted with a contradiction of spatial dimensions. To resolve this contradiction one must assume the presence of a new optical quality. The figures are endowed with transparency; that is they are able to interpenetrate without an optical destruction of each other. Transparency however implies more than an optical characteristic, it implies a broader spatial order. Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations. Space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity. The position of the transparent figures has equivocal meaning as one sees each figure now as the closer now as the further one.”

2. Not literally canvas. Ames’s paintings are executed on two inch deep wooden panels.

Anthony Ames has maintained an architectural practice in Atlanta, Georgia since 1976. He received architectural degrees from Georgia Tech and Harvard University. He has taught as eleven universities and lectured at many more. Ames, a fellow of the American Academy in Rome and of the American Institute of Architects has received numerous architectural awards including The Architectural League of New York “Emerging Voices” prize in 1983, and has been widely published. He began painting in 1984 and has been struggling with it ever since.

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