Thursday, July 2, 2009

coming soon Anna Hepler: Intricate Universe...

Woodcuts on Kozo-shi, 18 x 22”, from the Wolfecut series, 2008

Several years ago, watching a swarm of gnats hovering against the sky, I was struck by the contradictory but beautiful effect. A delicate grey sphere suspended in the air, and awesome chaos of frenetic movement (Hepler)

Portland-based artist Anna Hepler uses simple materials to create a body of sophisticated prints, drawings, and elaborate three-dimensional spatial constructs. Over the past ten years her artistic obsession with the movement of particles suspended in space has taken on impressive proportions. She works in a variety of media around the central concept of a swarm. Her sources of inspiration include ephemeral natural phenomena such as flocks of birds, fireworks, and dandelion whorls. Says Hepler, “perhaps these moments fascinate me because they reflect a psychological state of release that is captivating and challenging.” Hepler aims to capture the dynamic essence of the forms expanding, condensing and dispersing.

She combines the idea of the swarm with an interest in skeletal frameworks either from the natural or built environment. Hepler is interested in portraying fleeting moments of suspended or built geometries. By combining visually cohesive forms, such as the oval or the sphere, and filling them with chaotic structures, Hepler takes on the duality she sees in nature’s systems. She is interested in such visually cohesive forms that nevertheless contain a chaotic structure–tangles of thread, electronic circuitry, swarms of insects in flight. “There is something terrifying about their massive intricacy and something beautiful in the rhythms of their minute and repetitive detail.”

Arrest, Array, installation view, Open Satelite, Bellevue, WA

The resulting visual investigation is incredibly elegant and filled with a peaceful, Zen-like energy. “ My work has always had a quiet aspect to it,” affirms Hepler, “There is almost nothing more restful than the perfect circle. The sphere is one of those perfect forms that allows you to appreciate chaos without being overwhelmed because you’re constantly held in stillness by the overall shape.” The work is quiet and apparently orderly in its overall form, but on close inspection reveals distortion and restlessness in its detail. The stillness is thus juxtaposed with a charged energy.

Dense and intricate, Hepler’s work evolves as a series of related elements. The imagery is primarily abstract, though she thinks of it as a kind of ‘reductive realism’ – that is, the images and sculptures are based on real and observed visual phenomena. Often she begins a new body of work with a sculptural prototype that becomes the subject of possible drawings, prints or photographs and culminates as a sculptural installation. For Intricate Universe, the artist will present three interconnected bodies of work: Projection Rooms, a group of three small dioramas, a selection of woodcuts from the 'Wolfecut' series, and a site-specific sculptural installation ARREST, ARRAY. The dioramas, woodcuts, and installation all describe, in different ways, the fleeting geometry of a flock as it is suspended in air.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

from POST-POST & The Apocalypse Somewhere: Zach Storm

Executed as if a visualization of stream of consciousness poetry, Zach Storm’s mixed media collages possess a remarkable vulnerability. The series provides a glimpse into various stages of emotional hurt the artist experienced as the result of the difficult break up of a relationship. The pieces consist of delicate line drawings in pen, ink or marker and added elements of stickers and collage creating small but detailed image montages. Through fantastic, surrealist scenes and cinematic film references, Storm blends sci-fi components with natural elements such as birds, butterflies and plant foliage.

Most works feature a solitary, often sad, male figure surrounded by word fragments and pictorial elements, such as birds or space stations. Words exist as equal components within the composition of the pieces. The artist’s delicate sense of humor is interspersed with celebrity name-dropping. The text serves as a visual and poetic element, providing meaning. Through his willingness to share his experience in such a straightforward and honest manner, Storm provides a glimpse into the hurt most of us have felt at one point in time while leaving or being left by a loved one, while simultaneously exploring humor as a way to cope with the most difficult of times.

Perhaps the most beautiful art is that which formalism and content complement each other, each enhancing the other’s most positive qualities.
James T. Demetrion

In Pursuit of Beauty brings together five artists who examine both the politics and poetics of the beautiful. They are: Julie Chang (San Francisco, CA), Timothy Horn (Melbourne, Australia), PIXNIT (Boston, MA), Tomás Rivas (Santiago, Chile), and Elizabeth Wallace (Boston, MA). This exhibition is inspired by a resurgence of visually sensual work. Unapologetically decorative, ornate, and concerned with elaborate surface detail, each artist explores beauty in their own way. They are exemplary of a generation of artists who have come into the 21st century art world with a renewed interest in beauty as a tool and a topic of investigation, making it an integral part of their artistic process. These artists utilize rich surface designs to draw the viewer to the work, only to surprise them with seditious content. Their pursuit differs from the classical understanding of beauty as perfectly proportioned and idealized by integrating imperfection rather than excluding it.

The updated, broader definition of beauty indicates a significant shift in the perception of ornate works of art, which for much of the 20th century were equated with ‘lesser’ decorative arts as opposed to ‘intellectual’ fine arts. The depreciation of pattern and ornament as symbols of political power and social status was strongly influenced by the 1908 essay Ornament and Crime by the important Austrian architect Adolf Loos. Loos saw ornament as a symptom of the degeneration of modern man and called for its elimination. Although seemingly a statement of the distant past, Ornament and Crime has held a powerful sway over much of 20th century architecture and design theory and propelled an aesthetic sensibility that considered ornamentation redundant or frivolous.

At first glance, the emphasis on surface design and the repetition of organic forms suggests a connection to the American Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s. The 21st century variety, however, is much more baroque, opulent and possesses a sleeker aesthetic than the organic emphasis of artwork of the seventies. The Pattern and Decoration movement was seen as a reaction against the stark formalism of Modernism and its rejection of decoration and ornamentation. This exhibition can be seen as part of an aesthetic response against the visual austerity of Minimalist and Conceptual Art, the thick surfaces of Neo-Expressionist paintings and the provocative, political nature of Identity Art of the 1980s and early 1990s.

In an artistic climate where aesthetics take a secondary role (if one at all) to conceptual or content-driven work, creating intentionally beautiful work is a rebellious act. In 1999, Curators Olga Viso and Neal Benezra stated the following in the preface to their exhibition catalogue Regarding Beauty, which still rings true today:

While ascribing beauty to art may seem natural and appropriate, in recent decades beauty and contemporary art have been considered virtually incongruous. In an art world increasingly focused on global issues and social concerns, artists and critics alike have questioned beauty’s efficiency and relevance for contemporary culture. Suggesting frivolity, the machinations of the art market and a lack of seriousness and social purpose, beauty has indeed come under severe attack. The assault on beauty by the contemporary art world has left a confused and baffled art viewing public uncertain about one of the very cornerstones of western art and culture, namely the pursuit of beauty.1

In Pursuit of Beauty provides a glimpse into a generation of artists who enable the acceptance and influence of a sensual and ornate beauty in the critical art world of the early 21st century.