Danielle Roberts: Afterglow
May 12, 2022–June 17, 2022

Friends Indeed is happy to present Afterglow, an exhibition of new paintings by the Brooklyn-based artist Danielle Roberts.

Roberts’s images are undeniably seductive. A moody palette of cool blues, greens, and fuchsias infuses her work with a melancholy that’s easy to get lost in. Her protagonists, mostly women, occupy mundane sites—restaurants, street corners, domestic spaces—that are rendered strange with hallucinogenic lighting and careful framing. These characters are beguilingly withdrawn and still, even when they’re intimately entangled with others. Viewed together, the paintings suggest a familiar narrative arc: on a hectic night out, the subject people-watches from the corner of a cafe, gets lost in a romantic escapade, and, as a fitting denouement, takes a solo soak in the tub. Yet Roberts doesn’t structure this tale around instances of peak drama. Instead, she offers glimpses into the subtle, emotionally complex in-between states that precede and follow high points of action. Roberts’s abiding subject may be the theater of everyday life, but her presentation is less of a roller coaster ride than a slow walk through the quiet, psychologically weighty moments that both breed hope and fray nerves as we carry on with life’s routines.

A range of visual and sensory precedents lurk in these images. Roberts’s tendency toward scenes of casual socializing and her play with acidic distortions of color immediately bring to mind Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's portraits of Paris’s 19th-century cafe culture. The work’s intermingling of real-world experiences and subjective visualizations of fact situates Roberts in a long line of surrealist creative thinkers. The prevalence of spotlight effects and artificial lighting in her images draws upon film and photography as much as painting traditions, and the work’s emphasis on sensory impact and emotional punch finds an easy analogue in music. These singular takes on everyday experiences aren’t premised solely on purposeful visual distortion, however. Roberts also credits her upbringing in northwest Canada as a key source for her particular approach to light and emotional atmosphere. The region’s heavy skies and dense landscape account in part for her shadowy palette, and they also help explain her focus on interior spaces and the sense of airlessness and mystery that courses through many works. As amalgams of autobiography, imaginative interpretation, and a mix of visual references, Roberts’s paintings are heady reminders of the emotional poignancy and strangeness lurking in the everyday.

— Jodi Roberts