The artists featured in this exhibition, albethey quite different in their choice of subject matter, process, media and aesthetic, have one common thread – they all interpret their subject in ways that totally reorients the viewer’s thinking. They teach us that what we see everyday, what we take for granted as ‘understood’ or ‘known’ has volumes of possible improvisations fostered from any number of altered states or challenged conventions.
Sandra Gottlieb, Sharon Kagan, Bobbie Moline Kramer, Rebeca Calderón Pittman and Susan Sommer all make art that reveals a new and compelling depth of perception. Fixed ideas and familiar notions are eclipsed by free form innovation, as these artists leave behind just enough information to ground their content in the known. From there, individual intuitions or revelations begin to appear and grow like a field of unchecked wild flowers as bold and billowing clouds, wandering weaves of yarn, a fleeting expression, a distant memory or the ground we walk upon is transformed into a magical and mystifying narrative.
Sandra Gottlieb takes us to the outer edges of the sky above, where a mammoth mix of elements builds into great and magnificent masses. These monumental cloud formations possess surprising color and weight, much different than what we might expect at sunset, making the once familiar forms far more tactile and intense. Gottlieb takes these fantastical photographs from a unique perspective, a parallel view that has just the right mix of dizzying detail and frightening proximity. In some works, like A Cloud Study, Sunset No.11, we see the clouds appearing mountain-like against a cold, near nighttime sky. In A Cloud Study, Sunset No.2 and No.4 we find a dark dense border creeping in at the bottom like a harbinger of doom and destruction. In all, we see in these cloud formations a fact of nature that is all-powerful and ever present. It reminds us that our planet is one great system of interlocking elements that easily eclipses our own ability to create – and that we must not forget that nature is both an endless gift and a global responsibility.
Sharon Kagan finds and expresses the complexities of the universe in a most benign place. Beginning with a low-light, out-of-focus photograph of a close-up view of knitted yarn, Kagan further expands her options of information and ‘artifacts’ by blowing up these ‘soft’ images, and creating even more confusion and ambiguity in the increased dizzying digitization. From there, the magic of interpretation begins as the artist draws in, and later colors the abstract shapes she selects, making up a new matrix of a loosely converted reality. Like a physicist explaining matter and energy, or a mystic relaying their thoughts on the forces of life and fortune, Kagan constructs her images to reveal an interconnectedness that is as much about the mysteries and movements of life sustaining elements as it is on the subject of form and representation. Viewers are left with questions that produce thought and incite discussion – as art can be as much about extrapolation as it is information – and Kagan keeps the conversation going with great flair and boundless suggestions.
Bobbie Moline-Kramer most intuitively turns human emotions into an array of abstracted vignettes. Beginning with her previously painted realistic portraits that bear expressive facial features, she over-paints them with an intricate vocabulary of spontaneous shapes and communicative colors, thus obliterating most of the detail. She does this with the same vigor and inventiveness of a jazz musician who too defies but never totally destroys a given melody. And like a group of jazz musicians who improvise in a collective way, responding to each other’s riffs and rambles, so does Moline-Kramer react to and expand the portraits she painted years before, to a place where our senses and perceptions are heightened and one’s personal experience can reach new and stirring heights. Like a distant mountain range or fire flies in the early evening, details come in and out of view when one thinks of radical changes. Therefore, the artist paints them, the musician plays them and the poet speaks them without concern, as our desire to expand thought takes us to a variety of non-linear leads and ascending levels.
Rebeca Calderón Pittman finds her muse in the meanderings of daily life. Ambient spaces, both indoor and out become fragmented and faint as they are seen through or atop veils of color and texture. There is always enough reference here to find your legs, to place yourself within the narrative, yet there is an other-worldliness present, a multi-dimensional space we travel in, and Calderón Pittman reveals this to us as a mix of unconscious connections within lucid passages. Like a waking dream, her paintings capture enough ‘reality’ so we can sense a common experience or memory, yet the way in which she both develops and eradicates her descriptive imagery gives this work a more thoughtful and graceful tone. Like the broken sounds of a weak and distant broadcast or communication, we get a sustainable amount of information to keep us in the moment, and we sense enough purpose or import to stay within her realm of reasoning as we pass through space and time to a calming illumination.
Susan Sommer has a distinct view of the rhythms of nature. Working in one of the more rustic areas of Upstate New York, she sees the changing seasons and accompanying movements of indigenous species as a constant reminder that nature is the ultimate bringer of stability and change. Instead of making accurate representations, Sommer sees these fascinating facilities as a jumping off point to dig deep into the shadows and light. Each and every part of our natural environment can be broken down into a symbiotic network of plants, animals and climate, but how does one express that with pure light and color. Sommer achieves this elusive outcome with cousin shapes, complementary hues and cohesive compositions that relay holistic harmony to its host of inhabitants. Even with the intrusion of man in the painting City Squares, Sommer sees a balance between form and color that reveals much about the give and take between man and nature as our most formidable and forgiving host will always seek to return the land to its original state.
Free Form Five, which runs from October 7 to November 18, opens at Elga Wimmer PCC on October 7th from 5-7pm. The gallery is located at 526 West 26th Street, Suite #310, New York City.