It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
Though the paintings were made by two artists working in collaboration, the vision of Know Flight is so singular, one might mistake it for the work of just one person. Both artists, Anthony Arevalo of Reno and Ryan Horn from Sacramento, worked on every piece, passing the medium-sized paintings back and forthbetween them. Working in this way required the artists to be willing to let the work go, to respect each other to improve it as they saw fit and to trust each other’s artistic judgment and intuitive empathy.
The result is a surprisingly unified aesthetic based around a pop-art hipster iconography. As the title suggests, the theme here is “flight,” and many of the recurring images are air-bound: birds, planes, kites and butterflies.
The artists claim that the inspiration for the work comes from childhood fantasies.
“Ever since I was a child,” says Arevalo wistfully, “I’ve wanted to be a bird.” Horn, on the other hand, says his fantasy flights were always mechanical; he wanted to be a pilot. These two airborne dreams coexist in Know Flight. In the painting “Only,” for example, birds flying in one direction overlap with planes flying the opposite way. It creates an interesting compositional juxtaposition—but the collaborative vision doesn’t just consist of distinct overlapping fantasies; most of the pieces integrate the two artistic visions to the point that they’re difficult to separate.
The image of the kite recurs in a few pieces, and it’s a perfect symbol for Horn and Arevalo’s unified approach. It’s a manmade object, but it relies completely on natural elements for flight, and its organic flight patterns are almost bird-like.
Just as they had to work to find common ground conceptually, the artists began to move closer to each other’s aesthetic approaches and developed a distinct style that incorporates both approaches but is dominated by neither. Arevalo’s work is influenced by graphic design and has a pop-minimalist feel. Horn’s work is much more painterly and incorporates a brighter palette.
The artists used a range of materials (spray paint, acrylics, oils, colored pencils) on a variety of surfaces (wood, canvas, a “no smoking” sign). The compositions are relatively straightforward, allowing the eye to “fly” across the surface, but then inviting closer examination.
Many of the paintings incorporate romanticized, idealized female forms that look like they come straight from advertisements. Horn calls them “fashion girls.” The most recognizable “fashion girl” is Amelia Earhart. She appears in a number of the paintings, most notably, “Precursor” and its follow-up, “Precursor Detail with Humming Bird.” In addition to being the antecedent of its own detail, “Precursor” notes Earhart as one of the pioneers of early flight.
“727” doesn’t feature the eponymous plane, but instead what appear to be WWII fighter planes and strange, immobile feather shapes that seem to resemble artichoke mountains. It’s probably the show’s most intriguing piece and a perfect example of a successful collaboration.
“I had been working and working on that one," says Horn, "And I was starting to hate it, so I passed it off to Anthony, and he took a new approach and was able to breathe new life into it.