Categorized | Reviews

Marie Thibeault @ George Lawson

Night Tree, 2014, oil on canvas, 72 x 66"

With torqued, tilted, stacked and gridded elements, Marie Thibeault invests charged abstract paintings with a sense of entangled time.  She does it with crisply defined wedges painted in saturated colors, large geometric and free-form shapes, and teetering hand-built webs that make for dense layers of space.  These constructions reference urban development, airport terminals, maps, architectural scaffolding and system collapse.  In the past, Thibeault has worked from photos of disasters — Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey andbefore that, Katrina in New Orleans, the subject of a 2009 show in this space.  Now, her sources are more universal: e-waste, global warming, migrating ocean waste, shipyard environments and other places where worlds collide. The seven paintings on view in her current show, engineering, selected paintings, take us to the brink via upended tectonic plates through which we can see the tenuous remains of houses and buildings, contingent forms that barely keep chaos at bay. 

Thibeault orchestrates these works with a finely calibrated color sensibility, primarily sequences of blues and reds.  She brackets cobalt blues with unexpected planks of mint green, while holding an insistent alizarin crimson in check with shafts of cadmium red and murky grays.  It’s Guston’s palette scraped and stretched apart.  Thibeault takes pleasure in color, and confident of her skill, she brings us to another kind of brink with a palette that stops short of grating and unpleasant.  Toying with the shrill and cold-blooded, Thibeault courageously taunts the desire for what is knowingly pleasing and tastefully comfortable.
Empyrean, 2015, oil on canvas, 45 x 40"

The upper half of Night Tree, for example, is composed of blocks of blues and fingers of black and gray over which an orange cubist frame is drawn.  Suggesting architectural plans or, given the title, a hastily constructed tree fort, the frame domesticates the painting, but only just enough.  Otherwise, the ominous black-winged shape hovering above a patchwork field of grays at the painting’s bottom edge is left to unsettle the nerves. Like a plane orbiting in space, it implicates paranoia and the reality of surveillance and, more generally, our reliance on systems subject to failure.  This interest in entropy has long aligned her with Julie Mehretu, an artist who uses layering to visualize complex networks.  It also pulls her into the orbits of Frank Owen, Val Britton,

Alex Couwenberg, Danielle Tegeder and others who use similar techniques to depict far-flung (and often unseen) systems.   

Thibeault, like these artists, maintains an avid drawing practice, and as with her paintings, she works on several at once.  They have a rigorous graphic depth as a result.  Empyrean draws upon her competing impulses, modulating between line, plane and form.  Openly revealing her hand-built analog construction, we see Thibeault’s touch as we trace the lines she scrapes down into overlapping forms.   Resolutely non-representational, the painting is organized into disjunctive spatial relationships that open up to several possible readings.  Thibeault masterfully torques the language of abstraction and projects it into a new and unsettling pictorial narrative.
Marie Thibeault: “engineering, selected paintings” @ George Lawson to November 14, 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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