A cross-sec­tion of works by New York artists ex­plore evoca­tive con­cepts of color, tex­ture, form and process

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - TODAY - Re­view by David A.M. Gold­berg Spe­cial to the Star-Ad­ver­tiser

We live in the mid­dle of the Pacific Ocean, where stuff ar­rives ac­cord­ing to cy­cles of wind, wave and Matson. Thanks to co-cu­ra­tors Liam Davis (Univer­sity of Hawaii Mas­ter of Fine Arts alum­nus) and De­bra Drexler (UH pro­fes­sor of paint­ing and draw­ing), we’ve got some­thing more pro­duc­tive than an in­va­sive species or a com­mer­cial fran­chise on hand.

“New New York” is an ex­hi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary ab­stract paint­ing im­ported fresh from the Big Ap­ple. For those artists and art his­to­ri­ans who keep track of the play­ers in this game, the 30-artist show in­cludes works by Peggy Cyphers, Lisa Corinne Davis, Shirley Kaneda, Julie Mehretu, Odili Don­ald Odita, Bar­bara Tak­e­naga and Terry Win­ters.

But even with­out know­ing any of these names, there is a lot to see in this set of in­tense and di­verse works. How­ever, don’t ex­pect to im­me­di­ately rec­og­nize their con­tent. Be­ing ab­stract, they lack the rep­re­sen­ta­tive an­chors: faces, land­scapes, ob­jects or scenes.

But that doesn’t mean that a line, shape, pat­tern or tex­ture wasn’t ap­plied to the sur­face with any­thing less than 100 per­cent in­ten­tion. One can be sure what is mounted on the wall is the best ex­am­ple of a whole se­ries of ex­per­i­men­tal strug­gles with ma­te­ri­als, con­cepts, color, pro­cesses and ideas.

If one in­sists on play­ing the game that looks for re­li­gious fig­ures in the noisy pat­terns of ev­ery­day life, Amanda Church’s “In­ver­sion” evokes the fe­male fig­ure; Robert Otto Ep­stein’s “8Bit­ter­ized,” Paul Co­rio’s “Too Many De­tec­tives” and Franklin Evans’ “fu­tured­past” all evoke the pix­els and stacked win­dow en­vi­ron­ments of the dig­i­tal world. En­rico Gomez’s “Car­di­nal No” is an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion that re­fuses to re­solve into leg­i­ble text, and many of these pain­ters work with mo­tifs of swirling rain­bow mo­saics atop com­plex fields of color.

There is some­thing both play­ful and men­ac­ing in Lisa Corinne Davis’ “Con­crete Delu­sion,” which demon­strates a ten­sion be­tween a fal­ter­ing mono­chrome grid and var­i­ous scales of dis­rup­tion in both color and form. It’s al­most as if nat­u­ral forces and lines of spon­ta­neous con­nec­tion are emerg­ing un­der ge­o­logic pres­sures, the hor­i­zon­tal fault line of bold quilted quadri­lat­er­als push­ing an ur­ban fab­ric aside to let rain­bows and black ink leak to the sur­face.

BUT PER­HAPS I have al­ready overde­ter­mined what view­ers might ex­pe­ri­ence on their own terms, for ab­stract paint­ing de­mands that one ride out an im­me­di­ate aes­thetic re­ac­tion (the sim­pli­fied “like-don’t like” that is trained into us), and even wait out the mind’s ten­dency to seek and iden­tify pat­terns.

The artists’ in­cred­i­bly var­ied uses of color, tex­ture, brush­work, form, depth, trans­parency and pat­tern are all meant to “strike” the eye and rouse re­ac­tions that are deeply pro­grammed through an­ces­tral per­cep­tion. Ab­stract paint­ing ex­pects the viewer to see first, feel next and think last.

How else might one ap­proach a work like Julie Tor­res’ “Drop,” a ver­ti­cally mounted pool of bright yel­low acrylic paint that uses a pa­per bag as a frame. Here she has re­duced paint­ing to its barest essences: a care­fully cho­sen color, a plan for its in­ter­ac­tion with light, a play on the no­tion of fram­ing and an ex­ag­ger­a­tion of what nor­mally would be thought of as a mere dab on the pal­ette.

“Drop” con­nects to John Zinsser’s “Confessions of St. Au­gus­tine,” a bold cross-hatch­ing of cad­mium red ap­plied in thick brush strokes that leave ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion of bris­tle, vis­cos­ity and over­lap as ar­tic­u­lated as a sculp­ture. Though the ti­tle refers to one man’s re­flec­tion on a life of sin, and signs of blood and prison are cer­tainly there for in­ter­pre­ta­tion, there are other ways into the work. One viewer I met saw it as an ex­pres­sion of ex­cess — “Paint is ex­pen­sive!” — and a sym­bol of cap­i­tal­ism.

Though she knew noth­ing of the ti­tle, was she far from the mark?

This brings us to the myth that there is a “right” or “wrong”


>> Through Dec. 4; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon­days to Fri­days and noon to 4 p.m. Sun­days >> Univer­sity of Hawaii Art Gallery, Art Build­ing at UH-Manoa >> 956-6888 or visit hawaii.

edu/art >> Closed: Thanks­giv­ing holi

day, Nov. 26, and 27 way to look at an ab­stract paint­ing. Though for­mal ex­per­tise in art lies on a spec­trum dic­tated by economics, academia and ego, the artists and cu­ra­tors would ex­pect view­ers to first and fore­most trust what they see. Some may com­plain about the “lack of in­for­ma­tion” on the walls, but I would ask them if, when con­tem­plat­ing na­ture, they ex­pect an ex­pla­na­tion to go with it.

For this show it is best to go with one’s gut and en­joy the ride, and for those who want to delve more, I rec­om­mend the ex­hi­bi­tion’s ex­cel­lent cat­a­log (avail­able in the gallery), which con­tains es­says that go deeper into con­text than this brief sur­vey can pro­vide.



“An­i­mal Spir­its,” above, is Peggy Cyphers’ silkscreen on can­vas. At left is Lisa Corinne Davis’ oil on panel, “Con­crete Delu­sion.”

On ex­hibit:




Julie Tor­res’ “Drop” uses a pa­per bag as a frame for yel­low acr ylic paint.

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