'Plein Air Guitar' @ Philly Fringe Fest 2021: Thomas Kinkade Meets Guitar Center in 20 Watercolors

An art exhibition by Derek Ayres titled “Plein Air Guitar” at See Here Now Pop-Up as part of this year's Philadelphia Fringe Fest is to take place in September.

Online PR News – 07-August-2021 – PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – An exhibition titled “Plein Air Guitar” at See Here Now Pop-Up Gallery as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2021 is scheduled to take place on September 18, 1-6 p.m. & September 19, 1-4 p.m., 2021. The opening reception of the exhibition is scheduled to take place on September 18, 4-6 p.m., 2021. This exhibition is the first solo exhibition of Derek Ayres’ work in Philadelphia and will feature 20 new watercolors.

See Here Now Pop-Up
2237 N. Front St. 1st floor, Philadelphia, PA 19133
Gallery Hours: September 18, 1-6pm & September 19, 1-4pm. Drop-in, free.
Opening Reception: September 18, 4-6pm, suggested RSVP at:

Locked-down, my fellow shut-ins and I were picking up the guitar and playing board games to fortify domestic life in the wake of Zoom meetings and virtual classrooms. I was gratitude-journaling and posting small drawings on Instagram for about a year or so. As a Guy-with-a-Guitar™, this lead to finding an enduring muse in drawing my beloved vintage guitar amplifiers. But what to do with all that white background? I remembered watching the documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” and catching a flash of "The Banality of the Banality of Evil" where Banksy inserted into a thrift store painting a Nazi officer sitting on a wooden bench, taking in a bucolic lake and mountain view. So wildly out-of-place, what an opaque bewildering narrative, both the scene itself and whatever is going on in his head... So of course as a trained sculptor, it only makes sense that this year I've started making my own fake plein air watercolors, following along instructional YouTube videos, playing a game with a rotating cast of amps. Sometimes I make up stories or general impressions, layering emotional metaphors, or interpersonal signifiers, triggering title puns from films or music; other times the amps are simply just in a place. For the most part, the amps stay the same, save for varying color schemes, but the environments change. It reminds me of both the Rothko color fields and the Forrest Gump historical cameos for some reason.
-- Derek Ayres, Philadelphia, July 2021

Derek Ayres is exhibiting 20 matted and framed 8”x10” images on paper consisting of watercolor primarily with touches of gouache and ink. The images follow a similar format: the placement of an opaquely rendered and outlined guitar amp placed into a soft focus, impressionistic landscape. The amps are drawn in a somewhat cartoonish flat colored manner using gouache and ink, making them stand out against layers and washes of translucent watercolors. The effect is visually jarring, both the contrast of a hard focused object in a soft focused field and the surprising context of placing music gear outdoors in natural landscapes. The images suggest mysterious, layered narratives and metaphors that are undefined specifically and invite interpretation by the viewer.

Derek Ayres' new watercolors have something to do with the concept of "personal archeology" and a feeling of his mortality, or at least the mortality of his own culture. Parallel to the gods of ancient Greece or Rome, the gods of his 13-year-old self walked the earth: Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley, Angus Young. And just like the ancient gods, only a few artifacts remain. Often only the tools that created the statues and the artworks that survive. The chisel and palette outlast the woodcut and watercolor. And so, the sturdy amplifiers, the solid body guitars, at this point, may outlive the music itself. These are the bygone symbols — the crumbling Parthenon, the half-buried statue, the found spear tip — that will have future generations collecting and valuing, and pondering their meaning and significance. Perhaps entirely divorced from the music, which may cease to exist in any usable form after repeated technological paradigm shifts. But these are not tributes to the gods, these are the tools of the gods themselves. The art and the gods are gone. But the tools remain. These paintings are the equivalent of finding a feather from Shakespeare's pen, or an obscure piece of Kepler's telescope at a construction site and thinking that at one time, people worshipped birds and pieces of polished glass were buried with royalty. The meaning is lost, but the gods live on, separated from their true meaning, and perpetuated through history with misunderstood symbols.
-- ROBERT FANELLI, Philadelphia, July 2021


About Derek Ayres
Derek Ayres is a Texas-born visual artist raised in suburbia on rock ‘n’ roll, fed BBQ, and infused with a can-do DIY spirit that informs his work to this day. His wide-ranging studio practice spans drawing, painting, sculpture, digital art, and now, watercolor. Focused on both craft and concept, he produces objects and images that mix realism and irony while layering metaphors and symbols. His work offers the viewer a portal into themes of subversion, isolation, nature, performance, wonder, beauty, and redemption. His past exhibits include shows at Southgate Studios in London, Gallerie Unwahr in Berlin, and P.P.O.W. in New York. His New York debut show at ZieherSmith was short-listed in the New York Times. Derek holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University in New York and as an undergraduate at Rutgers University in New Brunswick was awarded first prize in an exhibition juried by sculptor George Segal. Derek is thrilled for his first art exhibition in Philadelphia, debuting a new series of watercolors as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2021 at See Here Now Gallery, a weekend pop-up in East Kensington.

About the Philadelphia Fringe Festival
The Philadelphia Fringe Festival is a 4-week long, city-wide celebration of innovation and creativity in contemporary performance. Each September, the Festival explodes into every nook and cranny of Philadelphia with more than 1,000 artistically daring performances, including national and international performances curated by FringeArts, and works produced by hundreds of independent artists. 2021 marks the 25th annual Fringe Festival, which runs September 9—October 3. For more information, visit http://FringeArts.com/2021FringeFestival