Scavengers: New Paintings by Seth Storck, at The Gallery 4, combines many things at once in a pulsing display of vivid singularity. A kaleidoscopic mash-up of makeshift roadside temples honoring Indian gods and goddesses; the palettes of the pioneers of the Japanese superflat movement that crossed from fine art to street fashion; South American jaguar deities and the blood sacrifices to appease them; early newspaper comics trapping primary tones in rigorous borders; and — in the very best of ways — color bursting in fluorescent spurts from the luxurious density of black velvet. It all comes together as something rich, lush, slightly dangerous, fully engaging attention.
Most of these works, which range from wee 8-by-8-inch canvases to a few commanding larger pieces, are portraits. Much of it is seething, not necessarily in a negative sense, not necessarily in anger, but with an energy that defies containment, a life force barely subject to restraint.
Few works depict human subjects, or at least subjects still alive, in the traditional sense; more frequently, we show up as skulls. The absence of skin or a heartbeat seems not to quiet us any: These craniums are at least as animated as their vital counterparts, fierce and dynamic and quick. Steam and smoke surge between clenched teeth, flames erupt like lava out of eye sockets, and vacant holes provide ground in which spiky grass can grow.
While we appear as bones, other beings more resemble rocks — craggy amalgamations of cobblestoned surfaces, nothing smooth or even. A brilliant creature appearing to have risen from a lagoon not black but emerald is embraced by a blue alligator in “Bayou,” the latter directing a side-eye full of stink to the viewer in warning. “The First of Us” features an imperial monkey grinning cockily; “Forest Dweller” is a woody tree spirit, not as kind as Groot, not as malevolent as the weedy invader of The Evil Dead. There are cats jungle and domestic, both hissing, heroes, and demons. The remains of an astronaut, still suited, bring in a little bit of feels in the showstopper, “Did We Make It Home.”
This is Pittsburgh-based Storck’s first solo presentation; his work has previously been seen locally in group exhibitions including Gallery 4’s annual salon show. We’re sure to see more of him, and the fantastical citizens of the world he created.__