Friday, November 09, 2018

Maureen McQuillan's Offset Drift on the LES

 Maureen McQuillan's exhibition opened October 12, 2018 (above, the admiring crowd at the reception) and closes Sunday, November 11, 2018. Offset Drift "refers to a technical term describing the fluctuation of electric currents or other phenomena that deviate from an expected norm," according to the gallery's press release.  Gallery Link 
Untitled (ODV/7XDHB), 2018. Ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel. Diptych 16 x 30.25 inches.
Since the early aughts McQuillan has immersed herself in the pursuit of suspending pigment on canvas, paper, photographic and acetate surfaces, light box and neon installations. Her early black and white compositions steadily increased in complexity to the multi-layered patterns and intense coloration of the work in Offset Drift. 
Untitled (ODV/8XLOD), 2018, ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel, Diptych 36 x 47.20 inches
Despite her willingness to share the process of their fabrication, McQuillan's paintings remain mysterious. By dripping and pulling luminescent color through polymer layers, she weaves patterns and folds that appear surprisingly sculptural. Embedded in their physical, object-like surfaces, the repetitive gestures induces an organic irregularity that speaks to gesture and its unforeseen results. Katherine Behar* writes in Botox Ethics-or Facing Necrophilia that "plasticity is a near-perfect description of the material quality of being an object," conflating objects with their performance: "Objects consist of plasticity; they perform plasticity's qualities." It is as if McQuillan channels the necrophiliac potential within human identity through automatic gestures that deviate in offset drift.
Untitled (ODV/4XDD), 2018. Ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel. Diptych 32 x 22.5 inches.
Referencing philosopher Catherine Malobou, Behar proposes that plasticity has two functions, the first sculpting ("a plasticity that models"), such as Botox or  art, and the second "disobedience," such as explosives. The concept and execution of Offset Drift encompass both in that internal shapes present new and intentional modes of drawing that yields visual surprises like the green on lower right as well as double mandalas and X forms.
Untitled (ODV/4XDD), 2018. Ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel, diptych, 32 x 22.5 inches.
Untitled (ODV/BXRGYG), 2018. Ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel. 15 x 15.75 inches.
McQuillan's expanded palettes harness luminescent color with neutral or tinted tones so that light flickers invitingly through suspended layers that connote water, wood or fire, compressing Plato's Cave within a wooden substrate.
Untitled (ODV/5XMTRC), 2018. Ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel. 11.75 x 11.50 inches.
Untitled (ODV/5XHY), 2018, ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel. 12.75 x 11.75 inches.

Untitled (ODV/3XDO), 2018. Ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel. 12 x 11-5/8 inches.
The recent commission for MTA Art + Design, Crystal Blue Persuasion (36th St. Astoria Line) has strongly impacted McQuillan's heightened color and design sense in these paintings.  She proves as proficient in glass as with paint. It bears noting McQuillan has worked extensively with photograms, which adds to the dual clinical and gestural aspects in her work. Go see for yourself. While you have the rest of your life to see 36th St. on the N line, there are two days left to visit Offset Drift.
Crystal Blue Persuasion, West Windows, MTA Arts & Design: N Line 36th St., Astoria.
The laminated glass windows stretch process into patterns, an offset drift of new technology.
Crystal Blue Persuasion, 2018, MTA Art & Design: N Line  36th St., Astoria - East Windows.

*Thank you artist colleague Felecia Chizuko Carlisle for introducing me to Behar's work--and person.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rackstraw Downes' Urban Rooms and Desert Landscapes

Rackstraw Downes at Betty Cunningham. Link here: Gallery Link

As always the case in Downes, drawings ground the painting. In the Conceptualization of Realism (Edgewise Press)  Downes writes, "I draw, not to establish anything, but to gain an acquaintance with a place." The top / ground floor at Cunningham features New York landscapes while downstairs desert landscapes. Making the loop, the two intersperse and one becomes immersed in the experience of two places, one tamed, but where wildness originates, and the other, so-called wildness that shows every sign of settlement. 

Sketchbook excerpts: time of day. The chosen time is below.

When I moved from LA to Chicago to attend SAIC for my MFA, I studied with Susanna Coffey, whose portraits share with Downes a nimble brush and close observation. How I yearned to paint this way! If only I looked at the Art Institute's Manets long enough, would it be possible?! But in the way Downes loves American primitive paintings but does not make them, so too do I love Coffey's and his works--and cannot make them! How can this surface be absolutely covered, yet remain so interesting? How can oil still breathe with life? 
Downes writes, "One painting may involve as many as 100 visits...I am interested in the whole place and everything that pertains to it: the long canvases I use result from wanting to get all that in."

In his 1996 book The Abstract Wild, Jack Turner observes only 2% of the US might be wild. These paintings confirm it. 

Downes writes, "Through the metaphor of travel everything comes alive. Except that the traveler's picture is half a picture: he is euphoric on exotica and the novelty of it all." ...To be continued below.
Seen for real, the intense blue shadows shock the eye from the expected neutral tones of this juniper field.

In passages such as these, Downes must experience a melding with landscape. 
He continues, "This may be OK for a romantic; but the realist needs to know his subject like a resident too. The traveler sees that farmland is pretty; this doesn't concern the farmer at all, even if he had time to notice it. He's preoccupied with the fact that his topsoil is poor or his heifers got out. It's a common rift in experience; what we're outside of we don't really understand, what we're inside of we can't really see."
He goes on to quote Su Shih (1084):
"From the side, a whole range;
from the end, a single peak:
Far, near, high, low, no two parts alike.
Why can't I tell the true shape of Lu-Shan?
Because I myself am in the mountain." (p. 123)

In the office.

Also in the office: ochre 'clouds' disclose an underlying grid Downes uses to establish proportion.

Sky moves around branch as branch shapes sky.