Caroline Absher, Mario Ayala, Katherine Bernhardt, Michelle Blade, Andrea Marie Breiling, Mark Thomas Gibson, Daniel Heidkamp, Julia Jo
April 25–July 13, 2024


Caroline Absher, Mario Ayala, Katherine Bernhardt, Michelle Blade, Andrea Marie Breiling, Mark Thomas Gibson, Daniel Heidkamp, Julia Jo
April 25–July 13, 2024

LOYAL is proud to present the group exhibition Striking (Lightning) Blue, a portal, a flash of light illuminating the space where abstraction and figuration interlace in painting. The exhibition brings together eight artists located across the US, creating highly specific and emotionally charged work to a new context in Scandinavia. This is the first show activating Loyal’s expanded upstairs gallery space in the Balcony Room alongside the Salon Room.

Striking (Lightning) Blue evokes an intense electric spark—the more blue the bolt, the hotter the charge. The name also suggests a “bolt from the blue”, an unexpected event where lightning strikes across vast distances, with no clouds overhead. Akin to these phenomena, each artwork in the exhibition is a bold expression within an abstract and figurative atmosphere, unfolding unique sagas throughout the gallery and together generating a powerful electrical storm buzzing with energy.

Caroline Absher’s The Rider unveils an androgynous figure in the foreground with flowing black hair, chin delicately resting on crossed arms, amidst a sea of swirling color shifting from dark to light across the canvas while another figure sails atop a black bat across streaks of pale blue, lilac, and a whirlpool of golds and greens. The abstraction of gradient and bold colors manifests the figure’s transient morality and power. Julia Jo’s All the Rage also harnesses crackling power. Jo captures the intensity of raw emotion through abstraction rooted in figuration by applying bursts of colored strokes to canvas.

Continuing the trail of sagas, Andrea Marie Breiling carves out an entirely new aerosol vocabulary humming with a balanced tranquility in her spray-painted canvases. Breiling’s paintings hang on either side of the fireplace, mirroring the intense movement of flickering flames in waves of orange and white and sheaths of deep purple and black, capturing an atmospheric pull and conjuring feelings of vastness through scale, movement, form, and color. Michelle Blade paints a fire-lit gathering amidst a forest that dissolves into abstraction. Blade’s wet-on-wet painting technique allows media to bloom across the canvas. Glowing sparks from the bonfire ascend into the night, mingling with the glitter of stars above. Trees also populate Daniel Heidkamp’s Fauvism-forward painting of wildly striped bark and light drenched canopies.

Both Katherine Bernhardt and Mario Ayala tap into bolted lines with animal figures hovering in the foreground, seamlessly merging the abstract and figurative. Bernhardt elevates the figure with her archetypal imagery, here a godlike pink panther, amidst a sea of magic mushrooms on a bed of white tiles, while Ayala draws from highly personal references and elevates them into something universal and sublime. Ayala’s Gentle on My Mind, a painting of his dog Bubba on a smooth orange background crossed with bolts of smeared cobalt, is reminiscent of Billy Al Bengston’s Untitled (Dracula Series). Referents to Barnett Newman’s Stations of the Cross are also present in Ayala’s painting and overall practice. Newman called for a new spirituality in art that wasn’t specifically religious, he believed artists should make cathedrals “out of ourselves, out of our own feelings”. Additionally, the paintings developed a central visual motif that had captivated the artist for a decade, the vertical line, a gesture he called the “zip”. Ayala integrates the zip motif and takes cultural references, including those that are hyper religious and codified, and extracts a sublime core. Mark Thomas Gibson rests a bouquet of metaphorically layered tulips on a richly toned field of black, addressing our deep need for beauty amongst the darkness that surrounds us. Ultimately, Striking (Lightning) Blue opens an epic of bold paintings brimming with abstraction and figuration, tearing through the gallery in potent surges of emotive power.


CAROLINE ABSHER (b. 1994, Greenville, South Carolina) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Absher’s oil paintings carry an aura of serenity charged with emotive energy that teems beneath the surface. Large-scale figures often appear in nature alongside animals that can be interpreted as guides to their human companions. A quiet intensity radiates from the paintings, figures gaze into their painted landscape or meet the viewer directly with a telepathic familiarity. Absher’s painting method begins with a loose abstraction with no color or composition restrictions, figures and shapes materialize from the abstraction and Absher’s subconscious. Ultimately, the painting chooses itself. Absher holds a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Solo shows include Fredericks and Freiser (New York), The Journal Gallery (New York), Makasiini Contemporary (Turku, Finland). Her work was presented at the Green Family Art Foundation (Dallas), The Armory Show (New York), and is in the permanent collection of The Portland Museum of Art. A solo presentation is forthcoming at the Independent Art Fair (New York).

MARIO AYALA (b. 1991, Los Angeles, California) lives and works in Los Angeles. Ayala’s paintings and sculptures are steeped in a Californian vernacular, inspired by commercial signage, auto customization, and lowrider aesthetics specifically associated with the representation of Latinx identity. His works adopt cultural references he is intimately familiar with tied to ritual, tradition, design, and trade, developing a communal language and strengthening a networked desire to be heard and understood. Paying tribute to a rich lineage of airbrushing in LA, his meticulous, intricate technique and layers of electric colors draw together a codified and non-hierarchical language of references from street murals to restrictive parking signs.

Ayala graduated from The San Francisco Art Institute in 2014 where he was awarded the Yale Norfolk fellowship in 2012. He participated in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture residency in 2014. Institutional exhibitions include the biennial “Made In LA 2020: a version”, curated by Myriam Ben Salah and Lauren Mackler at the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles). Solo exhibitions include David Kordansky Gallery (Los Angeles), Jeffrey Deitch (New York), Loyal (Stockholm), amongst others. Ayala’s works were included in the group exhibition “Shattered Glass”, curated by Melahn Frierson and AJ Girard at Jeffrey Deitch (Los Angeles) in 2021. Ayala’s work is included in permanent collections of the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Aïshti Foundation (Beirut), Arsenal Contemporary (Montreal) and KRC Collection. Ayala’s work was presented in a solo exhibition at Loyal in 2018 and in numerous group shows from 2016 to present. He is represented by David Kordansky Gallery (Los Angeles).

KATHERINE BERNHARDT (b. 1975, St. Louis, Missouri) lives and works in St. Louis and New York. In her elegant yet wildly expressive compositions Bernhardt creates the playfully irreverent bedrock of a visual world celebrating the visual richness of everyday life as Bernhardt paints figurative images from a distinctly pop and utilitarian vernacular including everything from cigarettes to tropical fruit, crocs, and basketballs. Bernhardt bounces these repeated patterns and motifs from one canvas to the next in highlighted outlines and fields of neon color. She depicts E.T., the Pink Panther, Doritos, and the Kool-Aid man with equal standing, as if the more obvious and immediate the reference the better. Her distinct style boldly commands attention, linking elements of color field, graffiti, and action painting in paintings so loose they constantly teeter on the edge of abstraction as her massive washes and wildly expressive brushstrokes contribute to the sense of spontaneity in her compositions.

Katherine Bernhardt received an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 2000 and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. In 2018, the solo exhibition Katherine Bernhardt: Watermelon World was on view at the Mario Testino Museum (MATE) in Lima, Peru. The previous year, in 2017, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas presented FOCUS: Katherine Bernhardt. Also in 2017, the artist painted a 60 foot-long mural entitled XXL Superflat Pancake for the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum. Significant group exhibitions include Ludwig Museum (Budapest), Amorepacific Museum of Art (Seoul), Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Querétaro (Mexico), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington DC), The Drawing Center (New York), The Jewish Museum (New York), the Brant Foundation Art Study Center (Greenwich, Connecticut), Rubell Museum (Miami) which traveled to the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC) and Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (Chicago). Her work is in the collections of Brant Foundation Art Study Center (Greenwich, Connecticut), Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Turin, Italy), High Museum of Art (Atlanta), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, DC), Knoxville Museum of Art (Tennessee), Portland Museum of Art (Maine) Rubell Museum (Miami), and San Antonio Museum of Art (Texas). Katherine Bernhardt is represented by David Zwirner and Canada.

MICHELLE BLADE (b. 1981, Los Angeles, California) lives and works in Los Angeles. Blade’s paintings of intimate everyday, yet dreamy scenes, burst with an airy, transcendent aura. Blade’s work probes at the meeting of the natural and supernatural, as she documents time, seasons, stillness and the persistence of the natural world in Los Angeles. Being from a multi-generational Los Angeleno family, while also living and working in LA, she contemplates the significance of navigating the physical and mental terrain as those who came before her. Blade has honed a fiercely radiant technique of figuration in which she works with wet on wet paint in thin washes. As the wet media blooms fluidly on the porous surface of the canvas, in a dance and race with time, Blade works with the element of chance, skillfully shifting and maneuvering the paint with her profound brushwork.

Blade holds an MFA from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco (2008) and a BA from Loyola Marymount, Los Angeles (2003). Solo shows include Micki Meng (San Francisco), Asia Art Center (Taipei), Loyal (Stockholm) and Wilding Cran Gallery (Los Angeles). Group exhibitions include Spazio Amanita (Los Angeles), Blum & Poe (Los Angeles), Nassima Landau Foundation (Tel Aviv), Simon Lee Gallery (London), WOAW Gallery (Hong Kong), The Center for Contemporary Arts (Santa Fe) and The Bonnefanten Museum (Netherlands). Her work is included in the collection of X Museum (Beijing) and has an upcoming three-person exhibition at Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (Novato, California) with Etel Adnan and Kristy Luck.

ANDREA MARIE BREILING (Phoenix, Arizona) lives and works in New York City. Breiling’s spray-painted canvases capture an atmospheric pull, conjuring feelings of vastness through scale, movement, form, and color. Bold strokes, drips, splatters, and other spontaneous gestures create layers of texture and depth. Slender arches echo across the canvas, gracefully meeting the energetic vibrato of cross-hatchings. Breiling’s color palette freely swings from vibrant primaries to subtle neutral hues, creating visual tension and dynamism.

Breiling holds a BFA in Studio Art & Gender Studies from the University of California and graduated from Claremont Graduate University with a MFA in Studio Art in 2014. Solo exhibitions include Night Gallery (Los Angeles), Almine Rech Gallery (Beijing, London and Brussels), Rachel Uffner (East Hampton), amongst others. Breiling’s paintings can be found in public collections including CA Institute of Contemporary Art (Miami), Deji Art Museum (Nanjing), X Museum (Beijing), Dangxia Art Foundation (Beijing) and CVG Foundation (Beijing). Breiling is represented by Night Gallery and Almine Rech.

MARK THOMAS GIBSON (b. 1980, Miami, Florida) lives and works in Philadelphia, PA. As an artist, curator, and professor, Gibson addresses themes of identity, race, history, and popular culture. His artistic practice incorporates various mediums including painting, printmaking, drawing, and sculpture presenting images of universal hope and ominous warning. His personal lens as a black male and deep knowledge of American history, drives his narrative of a dystopian America spun with satire. The characters and in his comic-book inspired imagery, play out enduring scenarios of the USA and the world at large. Although many of Gibson’s works are saturated with American imagery and focused on the past and fate of America, these narratives are tied to universal messages of caution and encouragement to participate in our global timeline.

Gibson received his BFA from Cooper Union in 2002 and his MFA from the Yale University School of Art in 2013. Solo exhibitions include Sikkema Jenkins & Co. (New York), Lewis Center for the Arts (Princeton University), M+B (Los Angeles), Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery (Philadelphia), Loyal (Stockholm), Fredericks and Freiser (New York), amongst others. Group exhibitions include African American Museum of Philadelphia (Philadelphia), Pace Gallery (New York), Zimmerli Art Museum (New Brunswick), Perrotin (Tokyo), Barbara Gladstone (New York), Jeffrey Deitch (New York), Contemporary Art Museum, University of South Florida (Tampa) amongst others. Gibson’s second book Early Retirement was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. Mark Thomas Gibson is represented by Loyal Gallery (Stockholm) and M+B (Los Angeles).

DANIEL HEIDKAMP (b. 1980, Wakefield, Massachusetts) lives and works in New York. Anchored in observation, Daniel Heidkamp’s paintings lie in the realm between realism and abstraction, lulling the viewer into a liminal space infused with the hypnotic incantation of transformation and maximum chroma. The ordinary shifts to extraordinary in his color saturated canvases mapping physical and mental terrains in waves of sunny gold, strawberry pink, and crushing indigo.

Heidkamp received his BFA from School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA in 2003. Solo exhibitions include Acquavella Galleries (Palm Beach), Half Gallery (Los Angeles and New York), Loyal (Stockholm), Pace Prints (New York), White Columns (New York) amongst others. His work has been presented in many group exhibitions including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Ranch (Montauk), Almine Rech (New York), SPURS Gallery (Beijing), among others. His work is included in The Met’s permanent collection.

JULIA JO (b. 1991, Seoul, South Korea) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. The interplay of abstraction and figuration in Jo’s paintings manifest the multifaceted depths of human emotion. Bursts and swirls of deep blues and crimson give way to fissures of limbs, eyes, and mouths. Her hypnotic images encourage prolonged observation, prompting us to unravel the forms on the canvas while simultaneously processing the emotive quality of the abstraction.

Jo graduated with a MFA from Parsons School of Design in New York and a BA from Smith College in Northampton, MA. Solo shows include Jessica Silverman (San Francisco), James Fuentes (Los Angeles), Charles Moffett (New York) and Ronchini Gallery (London). Group exhibitions include Winter Street Gallery (Edgartown, MA), Anat Ebgi (Los Angeles) and Ronchini Gallery (Dubai). Her work is included in the Morgan Stanley Collection (New York) and Shah Garg Collection (Atherton, CA) and the ICA Miami (Florida). She is represented by Charles Moffett in New York.