Grant Barnhart is an American painter and sculptor – the Midwest, motorcycles, cowboy boots, blue jeans, football—imagery associated with classic Americana—kicks, charges, rodeos and bedazzles are finding its way through his works.
Barnhart was born in Topeka, Kansas and between 1996 and 2000 completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, Ohio.
Barnhart’s works are a feast of star spangled satire and sincere adoration, it is a bipolar homage and parody on the good old stuff that makes up USA national iconography and ideology. Growing up in Kansas this artist tried to fight this imagery. He dismissed and rejected the archetypal lifestyle at all costs; “As an adult I’ve come to embrace this iconic cultural persona. Clearly I suffer from you can take the boy out of Kansas, but not the Kansas out of the boy syndrome.
He utilizes this cultural mythology and associations to highlight country’s adolescence. He tries to create works that linger between irony and truth, alternating between exaggeration and realism. Humor, violence, sex, honesty, weakness, celebration and strength confront the viewer allowing the audience to interpret their own relationship to the American experience.
He collects images and source material that are compiled and arranged to interact with one another. Then, he draw composite sketches of the painting, adding and subtracting images until it all begins to click. The scribbles and sketches are formulated on paper but a more refined composition surfaces in his head; “Usually while I am working on one particular painting the inspiration for two or three future works begin to take shape, becoming part of a larger conversation. I write ideas and blurbs on my studio walls, books, any loose paper I have on hand. I definitely maintain a certain unedited stream of consciousness throughout the process.”
It is easy to limit the “American Dream” to white picket fences, marriage, starting a family and succeeding against all odds, a very utopian perspective. The “American Dream” is embedded in the psyche like sand is to the desert, whether or not we subscribe to it. Barnhart says that following WWII, America represented a cultural morality and heroism that garnered admiration the world over. Since then USA government and entertainment industry have attempted to package and export this idealized identity to the point of parody, resulting in a sort of cultural pessimism, both domestically and abroad.”
As for Barnhart’s technique, he is using a frisked masking film that allows him to isolate portions of the work. Abstractions and textures form within smaller shapes that appear and develop within the painting. Many of the drips and transparent marks are created with a spray bottle and heat gun to dry the paint quickly to capture a particular shape, texture and length of a paint drip. The process can be more controlled and intentional than it appears.
Barnhart admires Rauschenberg, Twombly, Rusha, and Gerhard Richter for their limitless passion, their willingness to experiment, and their embrace of abstraction.
He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.