In January, G. Gibson Gallery presented Cable Griffith’s second solo exhibition at the gallery, this time featuring paintings about UFO sightings. This beautiful body of work continues the video game aesthetic Griffith has been cultivating for the better part of a decade with a dark, rich palette. His scenery describes a broad range of geography, but the dominant use of greens, blues, browns, and blacks are strong enough to suggest a wet, dark, and cold northerly location—our Pacific Northwest location. When warm colors appear like red or orange, they contrast brightly but still interlock with the rest. The compositions aren’t made of sharply defined lines, only shapes of color. His rigid pixelated-pop style creates a variance to the organic shapes, colors and underlying painterliness of his brushwork.
There is a general logic to most of the paintings: nature and object. They each present a different view of the same fictional world which feels, for the most part, complete and coherent. This logic creates rules governing what is, and how. It’s rigorous. And as a result of this rigour, the “sightings,” represented as they are in the style Griffith explores, are incorporated into the environments of his pieces in the same way that everything else represented is incorporated. There is no significant difference between the trees, the land, the water, the sky or the lights in the sky. In Griffith’s world, they are all real and manifest in the same way, each of them natural, and treated as such.
There are two pieces in the show where this rule-based harmony doesn’t feel quite so true. In Maury Island, the “sighting” appears to hover; alien and out of place in the environment. This amplifies our attention on the utopia in Griffith’s other works, and particularly when grouped together in chorus with one another. In Two Lights in the Woods, there’s a waterfall in the bottom left section. The brush is boldly revealed in a swathe of unruly water spray. What the brush stroke in Two Lights calls attention to is that behind the seamless fusion of the natural world, space, and the digital world that Cable presents, is Cable himself. That this surreal world is largely coherent is a result of it being represented coherently by the artist.
"Between comprehension and terror is the truth. Anything else is just a well-told story."
This series is an engagement with storytelling, both in the pieces that present complete stories, and in works like Maury Island and Two Lights that get their power from breaking the rules laid down for the others. These are paintings that all share the general subject matter—accounts and stories of reported sightings. And Griffith’s painterly style itself is a sort of retelling. They are paintings based on digital representations of the perceived world of the digital designer; paintings of artifacts, both memorial and material, in a recreated world; based on a digital world; based on an imaginary world; based on the physical world. These are the stories of stories about stories in a style of a style.
The effect of all this—beautiful visions in and of a mythological world—called into question as they are throughout, is a sense of uneasy hope. By combining the aesthetics of digital world, video games, UFOs, and space; Griffith bridges several great human horizons. He envelopes them in natural environments, suggesting there is the chance of comprehension and maybe even mastery over these forces. They are our future. But even as the hope of understanding and mastery is presented, so are the reminders that this hope is yet another story of a story— it is something we are being told about.
When it comes to having reasons to hope there is indeed a next frontier, and that we will have access to it, Griffith’s stories seem timely. The commercialization of space is steadily underway, and the recent news of SpaceX’s successful return of a stage 1 rocket, typically lost in a launch, seems to assure future profitability. The digital world is more rich and complex than we have language to describe. And finally the truth we have all resigned ourselves to— that we will continue to pillage our planet until it is completely uninhabitable—necessitates the need for hope beyond Earth. And what is true of hope is that it is a story we tell ourselves to keep going more than it is a true representation of the world. For truth, it's best to look at the midpoint between the paintings in Sightings and Lovecraft’s work. Between comprehension and terror is the truth. Anything else is just a well-told story. Cable is a wizard of a storyteller, and his world is worth visiting.
Today, Saturday, 16 January is the last day to see Sightings; but any remaining work from the show is available to view by appointment at G. Gibson Gallery.
— Author Ben Gannon is a Seattle-based artist and sometimes philosopher. He attended Whitman College, where he co-founded the arts periodical Quarterlife Magazine. His work has been shown at NEPO 5K Don't Run, Cupcake Royale, and 12th Ave Arts Center for their inaugural celebration Garden Variety, curated by Amanda Manitach.
All images courtesy of G. Gibson Gallery.