The mixed media paintings collected in Jonathan McAfee: Classical Waste take their subjects from American Apparel ads. But there is an alchemy at work here. McAfee takes commercial photos and renders them interesting and exciting — or sensual and sexy, as is the case with “Anna" (acrylic and spray paint on canvas), even if only Anna's head is the only thing depicted.
The common denominators between this group of paintings and McAfee's previous work — such as his Kurt Vonnegut portraits — are his bright, bold palette and his impressive use of mixed media, including spray paint. And the Indy-based McAfee continues to gain confidence as a portrait artist.
In a number of these paintings, McAfee experiments by playfully juxtaposing foreground and background. In “David in Button-Down Striped Shirt,” the model wears a shirt incorporating patterns derived from Central American Indian design. He stands against a checkerboard pattered backdrop that looks like an upended dance floor out of Saturday Night Fever. But instead of white squares, there’s a rainbow of pastel colors.
Everything clashes, but that’s okay in the world of commerce — as long as it sells. Even the skin tone of this African-American subject seems to reflect the United Colors of Benetton vibe of the backdrop. This is a portrait utterly of this time — because everything seems out of place.