El­e­ments of style Al­coves 16/ 17.1

Al­coves 16/17.1

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Michael Abatemarco

IN the 2013 paint­ing La Ba­jada Bluff, Scott Greene de­picts a bi­son driven over the edge of a cliff, a his­toric means of slaugh­ter­ing buf­falo that was used by Na­tive tribes. But Greene’s buf­falo has been pushed over by the de­tri­tus of mod­ern so­ci­ety, not by hun­ters, crowded out by a tow­er­ing moun­tain of bar­rels, pipes, dis­carded elec­tron­ics, aban­doned mo­bile homes, and other trash that’s be­come the foun­da­tion on which civ­i­liza­tion rests. “The idea for that paint­ing came from a land­fill that’s not too far away; I live in Ber­nalillo,” Greene told Pasatiempo. “It’s an older land­fill. It’s a com­paction of stuff that’s been here for a long time. The im­age was in­spired by hik­ing around and look­ing at ar­chae­o­log­i­cal de­po­si­tions where you have de­posits of dif­fer­ent mat­ter that are all com­pacted to­gether. I started think­ing, ‘ What are the de­po­si­tions that we’re cre­at­ing?’ You’re see­ing this bluff that’s sheared away and you see all the stuff that we’re lay­er­ing up.”

Greene is one of five artists in Al­coves 16/17.1, join­ing Bon­nie Lynch, Scott An­der­son, Herb Lotz, and Glo­ria Gra­ham, whose work is on view un­til April 24 at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art. The show is the first in a year­long se­ries that rein­tro­duces small- scale solo ex­hi­bi­tions set into al­cove gallery spa­ces on the ground floor. Af­ter this cy­cle, Al­coves 16/17.2 fol­lows, be­gin­ning on April 29. The al­cove model for show­ing works by es­tab­lished and emerg­ing re­gional artists

dates back to when the mu­seum first opened in 1917. The in­sti­tu­tion had an open- door pol­icy in which artists could add their names to a ros­ter and get an al­cove show. The sys­tem per­sisted un­til the 1950s, and af­ter that, the shows were more spo­radic, mak­ing their most re­cent ap­pear­ance ( be­fore the cur­rent round) in 2012. The se­ries an­tic­i­pates the mu­seum’s up­com­ing cen­ten­nial next year, and the last show,

Al­coves 16/17.7, opens on Feb. 3, 2017. Greene has six paint­ings in his al­cove space. He draws on art his­tory and con­tem­po­rary cul­ture, infusing his works with pop ref­er­ences as well as so­cial and political themes, and con­flat­ing the past and the present. “Con­cep­tu­ally, there’s a com­mon thread that kind of runs through the work,” he said. “Look­ing at art his­tory and bring­ing that in as an el­e­ment I’m work­ing with, I’m mak­ing a state­ment about how our con­tem­po­rary times are no dif­fer­ent than in the past. There re­ally is no past. I prob­a­bly started work­ing with that idea con­sciously in grad school. But my work, in terms of be­ing political — mak­ing state­ments about the en­vi­ron­ment or pop­u­lar cul­ture — re­ally goes back to un­der­grad­u­ate school in the late ’ 70s.” Greene grad­u­ated from the San Fran­cisco Art In­sti­tute in 1981 and re­ceived an MFA in paint­ing from the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico in 1994. All of his land­scapes de­pict a world in which hu­man­ity has left in­deli­ble marks, and/or na­ture has been sub­sumed by waste and ex­cess. “A lot of my work looks fairly tra­di­tional, but I don’t work in a real tra­di­tional man­ner,” he said. “I’ll in­tro­duce el­e­ments through­out the whole process and try to in­te­grate them in a way so that they look like they’ve al­ways been there. I’m in­spired by the Hud­son River School painters. When you look at their work, in most of it they don’t in­clude any sign of hu­man ac­tiv­ity, which is kind of amaz­ing; in New Mex­ico alone, the en­vi­ron­ment has been rad­i­cally shifted by the peo­ple here over 10,000 years. When we look at na­ture, we have this idea that it’s pris­tine be­cause we don’t see a car or a road, but a lot of it has been al­tered al­ready.”

Greene also in­vests his sub­ject mat­ter with a bit of hu­mor, as with the plas­tic bag caught in the blue branches of a cell­phone tower that’s been par­tially dis­guised as a real tree in the 2013 paint­ing UV Cell­tree. Fake cell trees are de­signed for the same pur­pose as the hol­low plas­tic boul­ders used to cover elec­tri­cal trans­form­ers and util­ity boxes: to lessen their un­sightly im­pact. “To me, they stick out more than the ac­tual cell tow­ers,” Greene said. “I tried to place it in a con­text where it might be con­sid­ered beau­ti­ful.”

The show in­cludes other works in pho­tog­ra­phy, draw­ing, and ce­ram­ics. An­der­son, the only painter be­sides Greene, in­cor­po­rates ab­stracted and fig­u­ra­tive im­agery based on pre-ex­ist­ing pho­to­graphic sources, draw­ing from portraiture, land­scape, and still-life paint­ing. Lynch, a ce­ram­i­cist, creates unglazed, thin­walled ves­sel forms, each bear­ing a unique sur­face tex­ture and mark­ings from the fir­ing process.

Lotz, a pho­tog­ra­pher, presents black- and-white chromium pig­ment prints made from neg­a­tives that are more than 40 years old. Lotz places mir­rors in the land­scapes for some pho­to­graphs, and jux­ta­poses dif­fer­ent pho­to­graphic el­e­ments into a sin­gle com­po­si­tion in oth­ers. Look­ing at his work can be dis­ori­ent­ing. As with Greene’s paint­ings, Lotz’s pho­to­graphs de­pict mod­i­fied ter­rain, land­scapes in which ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments and other man-made struc­tures — in­clud­ing au­to­mo­biles — in­ter­rupt and ob­scure unadul­ter­ated, nat­u­ral South­west­ern en­vi­ron­ments.

Gra­ham’s new work is a se­ries of geo­met­ric draw­ings de­pict­ing the crys­talline struc­tures of the el­e­ments. Rather than show the el­e­ments as static, fixed for­ma­tions, she in­tro­duces move­ment, sug­gested by stac­cato, vi­bra­tory rep­e­ti­tions of the lin­ear forms. The rea­son for the sug­gested mo­tion is be­cause, at the molec­u­lar level, the ap­par­ent so­lid­ity of th­ese metal and min­eral forms ap­pears more fluid, in­ter­change­ably ex­hibit­ing the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of both par­ti­cles and waves. Im­ages such as Gra­ham’s Pyrite draw­ing show the ba­sic struc­ture of the el­e­ment, while fainter lines sur­round­ing it echo its geo­met­ric form. The eye never set­tles on a fixed point, rov­ing from one area to the next, drawn by the ap­par­ent move­ment of the lines.

Gra­ham’s draw­ings in­clude lin­ear ren­der­ings of quartz, titanium, pyrite, and other el­e­ments. “Re­ally, the ba­sic premise is the supernova, or ex­plo­sion of a star,” she told Pasatiempo. “All of th­ese el­e­ments are formed from the enor­mous heat and it goes out into space.” Two older works in the show, Beryl/Sil­i­con/

Sil­i­con and Salt/Gar­net/ Nickel, both from 2004, are graphite draw­ings on lay­ered vel­lum. Each sheet of three lay­ers of vel­lum shows an el­e­ment taken from an elec­tron mi­cro­scope im­age. Salt/Gar­net/ Nickel is on loan from the Lan­nan Foun­da­tion. “The top is salt, the next layer is gar­net, and then nickel.”

Gra­ham writes in a state­ment that car­bon “en­com­passes the phys­i­cal and the meta­phys­i­cal be­cause it is one of those es­sen­tial sub­stances that moves in the cy­cle of life, death, and trans­for­ma­tion that is shared by all.” Her works un­der­score the no­tion that, at the sub­atomic level, we all have el­e­ments in com­mon. She re­lates the mi­cro­cos­mic view pro­vided by quan­tum physics to the macro­cos­mic view of uni­ver­sal space. All of the el­e­ments in her draw­ings ex­ist in­side the hu­man body, which she po­si­tions as the axis where the mi­cro and macro­cos­mic worlds meet. “My in­ter­est is in the hu­man body,” she said. “It has all of th­ese el­e­ments: cal­cium, car­bon, cop­per, salt, and iron. We even have a tiny bit of lithium. I love to think in terms of how th­ese el­e­ments ex­ist out in space and are also in our bod­ies.”

Im­ages cour­tesy the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art

Op­po­site page, Herb Lotz: New Mex­ico High­way –

Au­to­por­trait, 1970; chromium pig­ment print, printed 2016

Top, Scott An­der­son: Ba­nana Sun­rise, 2013, oil on panel, CES Gallery, Los An­ge­les; bot­tom, Glo­ria Gra­ham: Car­bon, 2015, graphite on pa­per; right, Scott Greene: La Ba­jada Bluff, 2013, oil on can­vas and panel, Catharine Clark Gallery, San Fran­cisco

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