Corey Antis’ studio is mostly white. There are white walls, some unfinished drywall, and a pair of windows overlooking a nondescript section of downtown Kansas City. Sawhorse tables that have been made with care quietly support the oddest things, all awash in bright fluorescent and natural light. Small wooden objects that with a few cuts, and one another’s company, are no longer simply laminate plywood. Discrete unfinished paintings that as flat and burnished totems have departed their assigned domain of two-dimensional images, and instead sit creeping toward their wooden, three-dimensional counterparts and the porous boundary of the alchemical.
The small world inside this studio is clean and simply made, and yet obsessive care appears along the grain at every edge. The incalculably simple, serious aesthetic at the heart of Antis’ studio is the heavy, dour fist that devastates, weakening us for a dry punchline. And yet this aesthetic also acts as a quiet reminder that you can’t be sure of what you’re seeing—it may be humor, but it could be mania—and the moment you’ve stated it, you’ve gone too far.
Antis has fashioned a space in which options for engagement are limited—one must either see, or think on what they’re seeing. It appears that the clues aren’t merely hidden, but unavailable, even to him, by design.
It took two visits to the studio just to name this feeling. Instead of noting the qualities of structural architecture that might remind one of Kansas City, or the qualities of summer (or winter) light that may inform notions of the Midwest, it took two long visits to simply articulate the most fascinating, beguiling problem. I can’t locate myself. Antis nodded his head like a patient concierge who had been expecting me, ready with direction. “Being dislocated is an opportunity to understand how senses precede thinking.” Though his sober, absolute expression gave nothing away, it was as though his brain itself was grinning.
Antis’ work is currently on view at the Rebekah Templeton Gallery, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He teaches painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.