Driven to Abstraction

By Stacy Davies

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Posted April 22, 2010 in Arts & Culture

The term “abstract art” is a wide umbrella under which many forms of abstraction gather. To the layman, abstract is any type of art that contains imagery that is mostly unrecognizable in our real world—variations of color, line and form that do not immediately allow us to pinpoint their origin or understand their significance. Still, these abstractions speak to us on another level, tapping into our subconscious wiring that demands we find form and meaning in everything, and they allow us to imprint our own unique vision onto what we see without any preconceived guidelines. 

In curator Alex Brown’s show, “We Are Abstract,” the Cal Poly student and artist has pulled together a variety of abstractions—from geometric to lyrical, partial and complete—and the works are a fitting representation of the broad ground abstract artists can cover.

R.T. Pece’s two Seussian acrylics on canvas, Lobed Mover and Green Stripe, take us on a vibrant romp through a fanciful world inhabited by brightly colored shapes rolling and cogging along, neither robotic nor organic, all propelled toward faraway destinations for reasons of their own whim and volition.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ann Phong’s great swaths and swirls of movement and texture, A Molded Thought and Dancing in Circle, are fluid and enigmatic, stuck with a few recognizable springs, cardboard and sundry other wares, splashing them about in waves of copper and plum. A.S. Ashley takes a decidedly darker approach in his industrial-strength No Air, where we find the lid of a Ziploc storage container and a respirator mask embedded into gray furrows and wire grating, turning them into fossils of an ancient extermination ripe to be unearthed as artifacts of pollution and progress. Carly Clarke’s untitled bronzy mixed media of what appears to be a dozen shattered pots and nipples—really—is also on an archeological level and might induce visions of a post-Armageddon kegger gone terribly awry.

Juan Thorp’s newest work departs from his mechanical animals and is a success—the orange, rutty imprint of Cell Phone and bloody red gouges on Pot draw us into forbidden terrain from which we might not escape. Shari Wasson’s exceptionally light and welcoming graphite and pastels, Vale and Mantle, however, jet us far away from terrestrial trodding and hover us above our human world, surveying the invisible ground below through rumbly, voluptuous clouds.

Yarn and thread can also be the thing—and not just for Simplicity patterns or kitten-play, as evidenced in Cindy Goldman’s two encaustics of multicolored strings embedded in wax (one pruned, the other fraying off wildly); Nicole Henning, Natalie Vincent and FORD might just give that furry feline a heart attack in their chaotic yarn installation, Maybe We Should Be Sarcastic, to which the answer is always “yes”—and therefore, well-done.

Alex Brown also seems to like a bit of fun, and his installation, Ignorant Drawings, invites us to sit (park bench provided) and peruse a hundred quick mini ballpoint pen sketches tacked to the back wall with titles such as, “Girl Walking,” “Guy Walking” and “Girl Smoking.”

The highlight of the show, however, is the five aluminum sheet metal panels from Luisa Cohrs—each a masterful treat in every way. In iPhone Message, Cohrs gives us pieces of a lamenting text message via black marker, accented by spray painted falling leaves, a blue, tear-eyed unhappy face and a tide of red into which they will be soon submerged. Using the same media, her Je Veux Voyager Bientôt (roughly, “I want to travel, see you soon”) begins the story of a little paper boat embarking on multicolored, choppy water, adventure. Minas spotlights a severed landmine with grenade boarder, and Renaissance Gumbo, besides being one of the coolest titles ever, is made up of lovely, negative pink spray-painted dots; it’s possible companion, Fly, continues the dotting in black and features a remarkable yellow-splotch bird winging around above them, ready to pluck.

Other pieces include Michael Arbogast’s über-minimalist couplet, Desert, a thousand subatomic hash marks on white paper, Doogin Paik’s temporal companion pieces Seasons and David Wade’s frenzied burst into a green graffiti jungle in Panic.

It’s an exciting and educational show, and both lovers of the abstract and those who are set on broadening their range of artistic experiences will find an esoteric adventure awaiting. Take the trip.

“We Are Abstract” at SCA Project Gallery, 281 S. Thomas St., Unit 104, Pomona, (909) 620-5481; www.scaprojectgallery.org. Thurs-Sat, noon-4PM. Closing reception Sat, April 24, 6-10PM.


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