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Linda Geary @ Rena Bransten

"Camouflage", 2010, oil on canvas, 90 x 80"

In the Bay Area, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exuberant, more imaginative painter than Linda Geary. Using oil, watercolor and spray paint, Geary, over the past decade, has charted new frontiers in biomorphic abstraction. Her trademark has been boldly colored compositions built from looping, electrically charged lines set against pale washes festooned with confetti-and graffiti-like markings. At the root of her work is an obsession with collage, one of the compositional techniques on which Modernism was built, and whose persistence affirms the essential non-linear flow of human consciousness.  

Geary has always gone with that flow, and in that regard she operates in the same rarified space as Thomas Nozkowski, Joanne Greenbaum and Charline Von Heyl.
 
In the current show, Inside Out, the volatile shapes and lines that characterized her work in the past have now been tempered by the challenges the artist has newly set for herself: namely, making large-scale paintings from small collages. Geary, I should point out has not, at least until now, ever made actual collages; her specialty has always been the illusion of collage. This she achieves by painting patterns into taped-off segments whose hard edges replicate the effect of something extraneous affixed to the canvas. These elements, which in the past were often graphic or organic in nature, continue to be superimposed atop watery grounds punctuated by blasts of spray paint. Thus, part of the appeal of Geary’s paintings rests on the perceptual conundrum: are they or aren’t they collages?
 
"Adrenaline", 2010, oil on canvas, 60 x 48"
Now, for the first time, Geary is actually building them. The component parts come from discarded works on paper that she re-assembles at a small scale. These she uses as models for large-scale paintings, created with the same faux-collage technique as before. But there’s a twist: Several of the models are accompanied by “palette paintings”. Separate works on panels, they look at first like little more than color keys for the finished products, but when paired, as they are, against the collages they feel like small epiphanies.
 
In the four large canvases that are the show’s main event, bold, irregular geometric forms painted in bright and sometimes subdued colors bump up against each other at obtuse angles. They do so tentatively, like friendly combatants testing each other’s mettle. These intersecting and overlapping islands of color are tethered in space by pale rivulets, echoing Geary’s earlier works. But now, color dominates so fully that it’s tempting to say she has broken new ground. Geary has always been a spectacular colorist, but in works like Adrenaline, where she moves shades of red through a dozen or so modulations, and Camouflage, where mauve gets a similar workout, color really does become content – especially when offset by jarring juxtapositions of brilliant blue, which in this series is a reoccurring motif.
 
Collages #10, #45, #55, 2010, all 15 x 11"
 
If nothing else, the pictures in this show carry more psychological weight than what came before. Their crude, yet highly sophisticated geometries, unlikely color combinations and varying degrees of opacity seem to open more pictorial space, while at the same time emptying the pictures of the whimsy that once seemed to dominate. Geary’s not operating any less intuitively or any less spontaneously; it’s simply that her work seems to have assumed greater gravity.  File this show under: not-to-be-missed.
 
–DAVID M. ROTH
 
Linda Geary, Inside Out @ Rena Bransten Gallery through Dec. 4, 2010.

 

 

One Response to “Linda Geary @ Rena Bransten”

  1. great writing- wish i could see the show!

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