Anyone with an abiding interest in abstraction would do well to make a beeline for JAYJAY before June 20. Normally, at this time of year, the gallery hosts an annual introductions show for emerging artists. This time around, the gallery elected to showcase its own estimable stable, asking each of its 26 artists to submit one new work or a series of small pieces.
The result is a triumph of programming with many individual highlights. Chief among them are: Ian Harvey’s tightly controlled “pour” painting; Tom Monteith’s slivered landscape; the Rousseau-inspired watercolor of Ellen Van Fleet, Linda Day’s voluptuous stripe painting; Eleanor Wood’s delicate minimalist constructions; a piece from photographer Roger Vail’s crepuscular series of neon light images; otherworldly sculpture from Robert Ortbal; constructivist-leaning geometric abstractions from Peter Stegall; a giant tapestry-like painting from Michaelle LeCompte that recalls the Gees Bend quilts; a spooky, glossy, mash-up of decorative motifs from painter Kim Squaglia; six small paper-on-panel paintings from Joan Moment’s “Molecular Series”; an uncharacteristically pared-down, monochromatic drawing from David Wetzl; and a piece of “pixel porn” from photographer/sculptor Stuart Allen, the only conceptualist in the group.
It’s a disparate collection of sensibilities, but it somehow flows – sometimes quite literally as with Ian Harvey who improvises by pouring paint. He serves up puddles of pigment in loud hues which, in “No. 1364”, he supplements with fat dots to create a pointillist-meets-Peter Max effect. Where Harvey previously only implied landscape, he now makes it explicit, with pools of color that work as both ponds and clouds – and, with patterned grids that reference farmland seen from a pilot’s eye view.
Tom Monteith is a different kind of abstractionist; he plays havoc with the tropes of plein air painting. He grabs pieces of scenes – trees, mountains, streams, trails, and skylines – and he recombines them with geometric forms in seemingly ad hoc fashion, desaturating some colors, wildly exaggerating others, and, as of late, subdividing entire pictures (like the untitled painting on view here) into vertical bands. While that may sound like an optical assault, Monteith, by mixing matte medium into his acrylic media, makes this painting look like a chalk pastel. They’re soft on the eye, yet brutally honest. Like the poems of Robinson Jeffers, his paintings speak about the ravages of time and of the temporal quality of everything by removing nostalgia and romance, two qualities that traditional landscape painting holds dear.
Linda Day, whose glossy stripe paintings ooze sensuality, evokes landscape through atmospherics by piling up thin bands of paint in quavering, horizontally stacked layers that give off a shimmering, iridescent glow. “Pulse # 22” is a fine example. Its undertones and highlights shine from deep within the picture, and its long lines imply an infinite horizon. That it also calls to mind a mouth-watering, multi-layered confection doesn’t detract from its appeal.
Eleanor Woods’ multi-media works – from her “Boundaries, Edges, Parallels” series – are probably the most complex and intensely focused exercises in high minimalism you’re likely to see. Their material associations, as the critic David Olivant pointed out, call to mind “a virtual compendium of fabrication techniques,” including “joinery, grid-work, weaving, sewing, scarification, and wound dressing.” They’re small – about a foot square – and require close concentration. But if you take the time, you’ll be drawn into a hermetic universe of lines and squares that while tightly contained, also suggest an eerie, spectral seepage of light that Olivant likened to “an alternating visual current.” It is one well worth wading into.
Stuart Allen’s four-pixel photograph, “Christina Aguilera’s Ass”, is an unreadable snippet of the singer’s posterior. Juggling questions about digital representation, pornography and the absurdities of celebrity, it is, ultimately, a banal exercise, but also laugh-out-loud funny. The absurd appeal of the series will, I predict, spawn legions of knockoffs on photo sharing sites like Flickr if it hasn’t done so already.
Sculptor Robert Ortbal, an accomplished conjugator of cheap materials such as flocking, styrofoam and wire, scores another hit with “Chords of Inquiry”. This gluey, greenish glob of wire-mounted orbs looks like ganglia seen through a microscope: a simultaneous evocation of things molecular and oceanic whose origins lie in the artist’s explorations of human perception. His work is among the best sculpture being made today.
Other artists who turn in solid performances include: Mark Emerson, Tom Leaver, Stacey Vetter, Kim Squaglia, Carla Bengston; Jack Nielson, S.R. Jones, Richard Martinez, Mary Warner and Galelyn Williams.
–David M. Roth
“New Less 20%: An Art Stimulus Package runs through June 20 at JayJay
Michaele LeCompte says
Thanks for the mention David! I love the Gees Bend quilts & many other textiles that show rigor and a certain severity of form. See ya, Michaele