If you’ve ever spent time in the Sonoran desert, images of the Saguaro cactus, the region’s emblem, will likely be lodged in memory. These multi-armed giants look as beguiling in death as they do in life, owing to how their wood skeletons decompose in majestic, human-like poses. Such plants, along with Native American iconography, have long influenced Eva Bovenzi.
For years, she’s represented this environment and much else by making collages out of cut, painted snippets of Yupo paper built up in semi-transparent layers. Where past bodies of work relied on clashing textures and contrasting shapes to evoke moods, the strongest elements operating the trio of collages seen here are watery lengths of green acrylic paint congealed in blotchy rivulets whose directionality Bovenzi disrupts by fusing disparate flow patterns into composite shapes that move in ways that liquid normally would not.
Double Diamond, two side-by-side chevrons trimmed in purple and filled with these forms, pays direct homage to the source material, cactus. Olmec, a snaky shape executed similarly, calls to mind an ancient glyph, while Nopalito, the most complex of work in Bovenzi’s part of the exhibition, shows a tangle of “limbs” growing pink spikes. It reads like a heraldic crest. What reproductions can’t convey are the spatial effects Bovenzi achieves by appending other bits of painted paper to these central shapes. Floating on the surfaces, they operate to surreal effect, mimicking the visions one experiences in the desert when vagaries of light challenge perception.
Oakland painter Robin McDonnell, once known for turbulent Abstract Expressionist paintings made with bold, slashing strokes, now produces roughed-up color field paintings: luminous, small-scale monochrome works marked by paint spatters and scrapped edges — surface incidents that add variety but do little to elevate the form. More effective are pairs of styrofoam “rocks” set one atop the other in the mode of Japanese rock balancing. Spray painted in glowing metallic “patinas,” they affect the look of extraterrestrial matter fallen to Earth, but at sizes too small to register the intended effect. At an exponentially larger scale, they’d be imposing, if not convincing.
—David M. Roth
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Eva Bovenzi: “Sonoran Suite Collages on Paper” + Robin McDonnell: “Solid as Breath Paintings and Sculptures @ Pastine Projects through February 25, 2023.