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Pard Morrison @ Brian Gross

“I know that down to the last simple detail experience is totally mysterious … what I want to do more than anything is to create things just as mysterious as nature.”     –Claes Oldenberg    
Mender, 2015, fired pigment on aluminum, 45 × 60 × 1.75”

Pard Morrison’s modestly scaled aluminum fabrications are whispered meditations on the language of hard-edged painting and architectural space.  Working with a singularly deadpan palette reminiscent of Necco candy wafers, Morrison slyly subverts what, at first glance, appears to be decorative riffs on Minimalism.  But the work rewards concentrated looking, revealing smartly edited commentary on painting’s flatness and its materiality.

Spontaneous Order is Morrison’s third show at Brian Gross Fine Art.  The Colorado-based artist, formerly a studio assistant to Agnes Martin, expands and enriches the hard-edged discourse started in the 1960s by John McLaughlin, Frederick Hammersley and their East Coast counterparts, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and Paul Reed. With seven patinated geometric constructions that waver between painting and sculpture, Morrison confirms that even along this well-trod path, there is fresh ground to be broken. 
Referring to aspects of cubist architectonics, Morrison cuts aluminum into sprawling, aberrant shapes that modify the grid into smooth planes, suggesting flattened and customized packing boxes.   Over

Spontaneous Order, 2015, fired pigment on aluminum, 60 × 47 × 1.75”

these shapes, velvety coats of enameled pigment glaze the surfaces and wrap around the edges.  The surfaces are organized into blocks of color that manipulate perspective, giving the push-pull illusion of stacked or unfolding cubes.

In Candy Drop Star Ride and Mender, Morrison deploys singular color combinations – both delicate and assertive – that recede or advance depending upon one’s vantage point.  Within the pictorial space, sequences of the minimal “cubes” maneuver, fold, and unfold into uninterrupted expanses of solid color, creating what Morrison speaks of as “momentary portraits of systems that are in flux.”


The fresh anomaly in Flicker is its subtle, but snappy flip-flopping between an object in real space and a fiction on canvas – or in Morrison’s case, pigmented aluminum. But for a small square of yellow ochre punctuating the bottom right, a dusky gray/blue evenly coats what appears to be the silhouette of a greatly enlarged piece of jigsaw puzzle or an agonized map of gerrymandering.  This irregular rectilinear shape hovers 1 ¼ inches from the wall, casting a subdued gray/blue shadow that is both a phenomenon of light and the optical illusion of dimensionality.  It exerts a mysterious and unexpected emotional pull, commingling the ethereal and the physical.

The lone freestanding sculpture, Outlier, a nine-foot tall column of stacked, patinated aluminum boxes, is less successful.  The colorful, striated cubes function only as an inert and impassive decorative totem without the formal rigor and allure of the wall work.
Pard Morrison “Spontaneous Order” @ Brian Gross Fine Art through August 29, 2015.
About the Author:
Julia Couzens is a Sacramento-based artist and writer whose work has been widely shown, most recently at the di Rosa Preserve.  Her drawings and hybrid objects are in museum and public collections throughout the U.S.  These include the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts; Berkeley Art Museum; Oakland Museum; Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina; and Yale University.  She lives and works on Merritt Island in the Sacramento River delta.

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