Justin Canha: Carnivorous

19 May - 18 June 2011
Press release

Canha’s bold, large scale charcoal and pastel drawings breathe new life into a medium, and subject, rarely seen in contemporary art. In his hands, the typically still plant is never rendered a stale still life.


Instead, the energy found in the growing, living specimens, most of which are carnivorous plants, gives the work a visceral quality. Justin Canha’s mark making simulates the varied physical textures of the plants: sometimes smooth and shiny, at times slender as a delicate stalk, other times rough and colorful. Each sensuous form captivates the viewer and unsuspecting prey.


Canha’s plants are a noteworthy departure from his previous charcoal and pastel drawings in both subject and style. Usually drawn in black and white, his earlier work depicts people, as well as wolves and other animals, often in a setting. Canha’s recent works embody a more intense sense of energy, owing to both their strong, vibrant compositions arranged within a shallow space, as well as their challenging, exotic subject matter. Canha so clearly understands each plant, that the portraits feel very empathetic, revealing the true “nature” of their subjects in an honest, unpretentious way that affects the viewer on a very intuitive level. This empathy catches the viewer unaware, as the artist mimics the botanical trap: the violent power of such beautiful plants draws us in.

Justin Canha (b.1989) is on the autistic spectrum. He graduated high school in 2009, and then studied at both the Montclair State College and Bloomfield College. He works part-time as a cake decorator, elementary school art teacher, animator, and illustrator. His work has appeared in several rap videos, documentary films, and children’s books. Justin Canha’s first one-person show with Ricco/Maresca Gallery comes after a six-year association between this remarkable young artist and the gallery. From a very young age, the artist displayed an enormous talent for drawing and painting, and an uncanny ability to view a subject and quickly render it with fluid fidelity.

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