MAPPING SPACES: Carte Blanche
Selections from the Kentler Flatfiles
GUEST CURATOR: Dita Amory
Acting Associate Curator in Charge,
Robert Lehman Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
David Ambrose, Cynthia Back, Ken Buhler, Beth Caspar, Gail Flanery
Felipe Goes, Keiko Hara, Carter Hodgkin, Meredith Hoffheins
Katherine Jackson, Kumi Korf, Jiri Kornatovsky, Karen Helga Maurstig
Jim Napierala, Florence Neal, Susan Newmark, Paula Overbay
Beverly Ress, Taney Roniger, Donna Ruff, Andra Samelson
Claudia Sbrissa, Robert Schwinger, Audrey Stone, Martin Zet
Sunday, June 12, 4 – 6pm
Sunday, June 12, 4pm
June 12 - July 24, 2016
David Ambrose, A Silent Spanish Fury
Cynthia Back, Las 99 Semillas: Del Notre y Del Sur
Meredith Hoffheins, Crevasse in Springtime
Katherine Jackson, Bridge I
Jiri Kornatovsky, Meditation
Karen Helga Maurstig, Lines in Ice, Variation I
Jim Napierala, Bandaleon
Florence Neal, Red Hook Islands
Susan Newmark, Body Parts Series: Central Supports/Spine
Paula Overbay, Lake
Beverly Ress, Bachman’s Warbler (After Audubon)
Taney Roniger, Bifurcations Series (Copper #1)
Andra Samelson, Cosmologies 1
Claudia Sbrissa, Castelfranco
Robert Schwinger, Rain Song
Audrey Stone, 34
Martin Zet, Untitled
Mapping Spaces: “Carte Blanche”
When I embarked on this curatorial project, I had no agenda, no familiarity with the art tucked away in Kentler’s flatfiles. I had “carte blanche” to select an exhibition, an open slate without strategy. I had my eyes as a compass, and that was it. As a curator of historical collections—drawings and paintings neatly filed in the annals of art history—I was on my own in a contemporary arena. The prospect was titillating, heady, and yes, somewhat unsettling. My eye would set the road map, and that was the deal.
I. Katherine Jackson’s delicate linearity of graphite touches sliding across the paper in Bridge I gives way to a dense mass of tone and line in Claudia Sbrissa’s fuchsia-pink ink drawing. Bridge I is light and airy, lacelike. Sbrissa’s drawing has the effect of a dense, gridded land mass whose edges permeate the perimeter in faint, transparent linear arrangements. Perhaps a puzzle piece is a better metaphor. The effect of aerial land mass is strongly at play in Donna Ruff’s Osiris, an intricate pattern of burn holes on paper where forms and rivulets suggest land and water. The whole design marches in measured draftsmanship, a band of imagery first horizontal, then vertical, then horizontal again, like an alphabet letter in formation. Audrey Stone teases the eye with interconnected parallelograms, some in graphite and some in thread. A pattern of linear yet animated simplicity, the interaction of media and its differentiation trick the eye. The patterned perforations in Taney Roniger’s Bifurcations Series (Copper #1) achieve much the same effect—a metallic board peppered with punctures, dancing in interwoven asymmetry. Threading assumes another role in Susan Newmark’s mixed-media sheet. She attaches threads to fragments of book pages like tendrils. White paint, the ground on which these fragments adhere, adds another layer of texture to the amorphous mass of irregular shapes. Newmark writes: “My layering process begins as an improvisation and an appreciation of how torn posters on subway and building walls reveal layers of memory…my surfaces become interwoven networks and dense webs of vision not unlike our packed urban environment.”
II. Geometry fades in and out of focus in the work of Jim Napierala, Beth Caspar, Andra Samelson, and Ken Buhler. In Napierala’s Bandaleon, circles collide, devolve, disappear, and reappear in the casual grid of a frame beyond which a pink/white/gray background contrasts with the opacity of near-ground geometry. There is spatial tension as circles bounce and pivot in an asymmetry of form and color. Quadrants of olive green delineate the squared field in Caspar’s linoleum print, where blue pods animate the surface, drawing as much attention to the negative as the positive space. Pairs of pods fill the voids between quadrants, as if dancing. Their shapes echo in the quadrants in layers. Geometry of another mix shapes Samelson’s ethereal, celestial drawing of the same title where aqueous grays and blues blend interchangeably. A few white dots in circles signal cosmological constellations. Less blended geometry than pictographic forms, Ken Buhler’s intaglio process overlays random imagery in brown against underlayers of chalky blue, some of which coalesce in recognizable forms.
III. Celestial rhythms characterize the abstractions of Keiko Hara and Kumi Korf. Gray horizontal patterns, surrounded by soft, muted tones and evocations of the moon, give Hara’s drawing an Asian peacefulness. Korf’s Sussuro/Whisper contrasts seemingly wet, irregular paint arabesques with random hard-edge lines, suggesting the contrasting properties of drawing media in an etching! Martin Zet partners with nature in his dribble drawings. He travels the world blending rainwater with ink. Water washes the sheet in wondrous, unexpected ways.
IV. As if seen from a night sky, the drawings of David Ambrose, Robert Schwinger, Paula Overbay, and Carter Hodgkin appear to describe the luminescence of the land below. Ambrose uses a complex technique to manipulate his paper, perforating its surface in a mass of interlocking linear pathways. If watercolored tones of brown denote the earth, one need only imagine the amoebalike cobalt blues and persimmon reds as breaks in the earth. And how do we transpose Schwinger’s aqueous watercolor to maplike content? Islands in the sea? The drawing has resonance beyond its appealing abstraction. Again with a mapping metaphor in mind, Overbay’s otherworldly subject gives the impression of having been drawn from outer space; hence, the indistinct definition of land and water. Tiny lights add a human presence in the distance. An electrical grid appears to reside in Hodgkin’s sheet, as if seen at a distance. The pathways in blue mark channels of current.
VI. From the celestial to the terrestrial, Meredith Hoffheins’s acrylic paintings come from onsite studies, occasional photographs, and memory. Her Crevasse in Springtime, conjuring up the earth incised with deep voids, had its start in observation. Small in scale, yet powerful in all its simplicity, the picture has a disquieting effect. Jiri Kornatovsky’s graphite drawing has no anchor in reality, yet its affecting subject could be anywhere—an energy vortex, a sink hole, even a magnified body part. The transformation of a small sheet of paper to suggest raw energy through curving lines of equal weight and measure is a visual feat.
VII. Spatially less ambitious, yet stunning in their own right, are several drawings emerging from science and natural history. Beverly Ress spends time in natural history museums. Her finely detailed birds perch on barely perceptible branches on a sheet otherwise void. Space and gravity, as we know them, are in question. What at first appears to be a recording of shedding nuts and berries transforms into a much more idiosyncratic subject combining several printing techniques. Cynthia Back merely intimates nature, cluttering an off-white ground of equal curiosity.
-- Dita Amory is Acting Associate Curator in Charge of the Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This exhibition is made possible in part by a grant from the Robert Lehman Foundation.
We thank them for their generous support of the arts.