Lisa Marasso, (detail) "Untitled", 2009, cardboard and glitter wall installation, the San Jose Museum of Art
[Editor’s note: This is a preview of a show that I have curated; NOT a review. -dr]
GEO-MORPH: New Currents in Geometric and Biomorphic Abstraction is a works-on-paper show that draws from two contemporary trends. One, rooted in architecture, combines surrealism with drafting and illustration. The other, expanding on historical styles of non-objective abstraction, employs collage, geometry, gesture and pencil drawing to describe organic and otherworldly forms, using landscape, symbols, topography and mapping as jumping-off points for reformulations of pictorial and psychic space.
Darren Waterston, "Fugue", 2007, pigment print on Innova 310gsm, 40.5" x 28.5"
The 13 artists on view include: Val Britton, Julia Couzens, Anna Fidler, Sid Garrison, Robin Hill, Jeff Konigsberg, Lisa Marasso, Joan Moment, Hearne Pardee, Leslie Shows, Ellen Van Fleet, Peter Voulkos, and Darren Waterston. (Click here to see the show.)
Val Britton’s 9’ x 9’, multi-layered paper collage demonstrates her kaleidoscopic approach to map-based topographical abstraction. Couzens, a multi-media and installation artist who first came to prominence with large-scale figurative drawings done in charcoal, displays eight artist’s books in which she combines geometric and biomorphic forms executed in a wide range of media. Anna Fidler situates her spectral subjects inside psychedelically hued landscapes whose cavern-like, topographic contours are literally sculpted from the paper she paints on.
Sid Garrison’s intensely worked, impossible-to-classify colored pencil drawings allude to practically every natural form you can think of, from landscape and seascape to things molecular and biological. Multi-media artist and UC Davis Professor Robin Hill activates 200 linear inches of floor space with a sculpture built from steel linotype characters, simultaneously referencing the geometry of urban skylines, as well as the historic relationship of her raw materials to the show’s dominant medium, paper. Jeff Konigsberg specializes in visionary drawings that radically reconfigure (and upend) conventional notions of architectural space. His complex works bring to mind the labyrinthine spaces seen in the movie “Brazil”.
Val Britton, (detail) "Beginning Anywhere", 2008, ink, pencil, collage and cut-out on paper, 9′ x 9′; Sid Garrison, "March 24 2008" colored pencil on paper, 28" x 28"
Lisa Marasso fills an entire wall of the gallery’s lobby with a biomorphic cardboard-and-glitter “drawing” that extends an idea she executed last year at the San Jose Museum of Art.
Sac State Professor Emeritus Joan Moment unveils two pieces from her new “Anti-Grid” series of drawings that use squares and morphing hexagons in multiple, overlapping layers to explore ideas about invisible matter. UC Davis Professor Hearne Pardee offers acrylic-on-paper pieces that demonstrate his recent forays into abstract symbology.
Ellen Van Fleet, "Stripe # 3", watercolor collage, 2007 , 30” x 44” x 4”
Leslie Shows, winner of SFMOMA’s 2006 SECA award, takes us on a geological joyride in hand-collaged inkjet prints that use representational forms as building blocks that are related in concept to her monumental wall works. Ellen Van Fleet creates 3-dimensional paper collages out of Rousseau-like forms which she renders in a style that mixes pattern and decoration with Op Art.
Peter Voulkos (1924-2002), the groundbreaking Bay Area ceramic sculptor, was also an outstanding Abstract Expressionist painter and printmaker. A rare paper collage demonstrates his unique, muscular approach and provides a valuable historic bookend. Darren Waterston, one of the most significant painters of our time, submits two large-scale prints inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Subverting the idea of “the sublime” as it has operated in early American landscape painting, Waterston employs wildly abstracted notions of space and perspective to evoke an ecstatic state. His approach is commonly characterized as “spiritual abstraction”.
These artists have significantly expanded the language of biomorphic and geometric abstraction, and have done so in ways that are materially inventive and intellectually challenging.
–DAVID M. ROTH
David M. Roth is the editor and publisher of Squarecylinder.com, an online visual art magazine serving Northern California.
GEO-MORPH: Sept. 25 to Nov. 15, 2009 at the Pence Gallery, Davis.