Hungarian Art of the 1960’s and 1970’s at Elizabeth Dee Gallery

The Elizabeth Dee gallery in Harlem, NY is currently presenting “With the eyes of others, Hungarian Artists of the Sixties and Seventies”. The exhibition is curated by András Szántó. The works in this show are not that well known in the United States, but are an important part of twentieth century (art) history. These artists worked under a repressive regime and had to find ways to express their opposition through subtle means. Making geometric abstract work  was a way to show a connection to Western artist like Frank Stella and Al Held with out overt political connections.

Károly Halász – Radial Enamel I-IV – 1969
Picture courtesy of the gallery

Károly Halász’ “Radial Enamel I-IV” consists of four square enameled iron plates. Using only bright yellow, dark blue and black to create tension between the narrow acute triangles, radiating from diagonal corners of the squares. The lines of symmetry in this work are a bit tricky. At first glance you think they would run from upper left corner to lower right corner, because of the lines created by the bases of the triangles along the diagonals. But, because of the alternating dark and bright colors, this is not the case. Instead, the lines of reflective symmetry are the four diagonals running from the upper right corner to the lower left corner of each individual square, as well as the same diagonal for the work in its entirety.

Imre Bak – “Landscape Transformation” – 1974
Picture courtesy of the gallery

Imre Bak’s 1974 painting “Landscape Transformation” presents a mathematically stylized landscape. Featuring a series of parallel lines, right triangles, and half circles this work has both horizontal and vertical lines of reflection symmetry. Alluding to traditional landscape painting, but using the vocabulary of the geometric hard edge painters, Bak is signaling an allegiance to the Western European and American art communities.Susan Happersett

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“Gamut: A Group Show About Color”at Cross Contemporary Art in Saugerties, NY

The Cross Contemporary Art Gallery’s current presentation features the work of four artists that all incorporate unique color usage. The Paintings of Jeanette Fintz also address the unfolding of 3-D geometric forms depicted on a 2-D plane.

Jeanette Fintz, “Matrix, The Cold Pink”, 2015, Acrylic on canvas
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

In Fintz’s large scale canvas “Matrix, The Cold Pink”, a construction of cubes is unfolding in front of a background of squares and pentagons.

Jeanette Fintz, “Tumble 3”, 2014, Acrylic on wood panel
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

“Tumble 3”, a painting on wood panel, depicts accordion-folded strips. It is the artist’s selection of colors that gives the appearance of dimensionality. There is no use of shading. Each rhombus is painted in a solid color.
The geometry in Fintz’s paintings pops and hums off the plane. Combining carefully rendered hard-edge lines and shapes with powerful and unexpected colors this work produces a dynamic presence in the gallery.

 

Susan Happersett

“The Ritual of Construction” at the Byrdcliffe Guild, Woodstock, New York

The Kleinart/James Center for the Arts at the Byrdcliffe Guild in Woodstock, NY is currently presenting the exhibition “The Ritual of Construction. Curated by Jeanette Fintz, the show features work that has a foundation in geometry. Basic  mathematical  structures like circles, squares, and other polygons have been elevated through ritualistic repetition.

Benigna Chilla, “Crescents” 2013, Vegetable pigments and acrylic on canvas
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

This large unstretched canvas by Benigna Chilla features a grid of circles segmented into squares and rectangles through the use of subtle coloration. An overlying pattern of six crescents incorporate a reflective symmetry. Chilla’s banner-like paintings have the spirit of devotional and meditative mandalas.

Stephen Westfall, “Live for Tomorrow”, 2010, oil and alkyd on canvas
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Stephen Westfall’s painting “Live for Tomorrow” is a colorful feast of reflective symmetry. The hard edge bands cutting diagonally across the four rectangles form a central square. Part of the interior section of the painting features order-4 rotational symmetry, but Westfall’s use of rectangles does not allow this to carry through the entire structure of the work, creating a kinetic pulse of color. I should probably mention that Stephen Westfall was my professor of Art Theory when I was in graduate school and I have always admired his work.

Laura Battle “Prism” 2016, Graphite on gray Arches paper
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Laura Battle “Prism” 2016, Graphite on gray Arches paper (Detail)
Picture courtesy of the artist and the gallery

Through the use of an astonishingly detailed repetitive accumulation of straight lines and concentric circles, Laura Battle creates “Prism”. From a distance, the subject of the drawing appears to be the central parallelogram that strategically touches all four edges of the drawing. Upon closer inspection it becomes apparent the real theme is the relationship between the two types of lines straight and curvi-linear lines. The intense process necessary for creating such an intense drawing definitely highlights the ritual aspects of the entire exhibition,
I am always happy to see an art show with a geometric intention. This diverse presentation goes a step further and asks us to go beyond the mathematical logic and think about geometry as a spiritual experience.
Susan Happersett

Kendall Shaw at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art – New Orleans

On the wall of the gallery next to Kendall Shaw’s painting “Sunship for John Coltrane” there is a quote from the artist: “How can I make a work so alive that one must react as if to a living creature overflowing with energy? I want to place life upon the wall.”
Surprisingly, to answer this aesthetic question Shaw enlisted the use of the most static of geometric forms, squares.

“Sunship for John Coltrane”, 1982

By stacking and four square canvases and rotating one 90 degrees the artists creates a sense of spinning movement.
Shaw’s  painterly technique consists of both planned gridded makings, and gestural drips and splashes. This produces kinetic visual energy that seems to be anchored in space only by the smallest square grid painted in white at the center of the work.
Susan Happersett