Heather Gwen Martin at Luis De Jesus
Seeing Painting that really gives you a charge is a rare experience indeed. It’s not that Painting is dead…far from it. But when you witness an urgency to a painting’s very existence, well, that’s a delight and a Truffle worth broadcasting.
I first saw Heather Gwen Martin’s solo exhibition at Luis De Jesus Gallery at a jam-packed vernissage. The large color abstractions rabbit punched my retinas pretty much immediately. Spectacularly illuminated by both incandescent, flourescent and natural light, the cohesive body of work is revelatory. I’ve thought of them fondly for the past two weeks and a recent revisit to the exhibition confirmed and consolidated my admiration. The reasons for my ardor are numerous and this post might best be served by a list.
1.) Aesthetic Intelligence: Abstraction can be a thorny issue. Martin’s work is unapologetic. By this I mean that several artists working within the abstract paradigm seem hellbent on hanging their practice and intuition on conceptual underpinnings. They produce abstracted works rather than actually painting abstract work. There’s a significant difference. Martin uses line, volume and form interchangeably and they often careen off and from each other to amazing effect.
2.) Compositional Absolutes. If you’ve ever seen either Manet’s Execution of Maximilian or Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock, you’ve been set under the spell of artists who conduct the viewer’s eye like Georg Solti leading the Chicago Symphony. They are in control of your vision’s path. They never allow for cul de sacs or unintentional stasis. Martin’s canvases coax and cajol your eye across their planes. Your eye dances across the surface. She draws you close with heartbreaking detail and pushes you back with color and form that can only be digested from across the room.
3.) Technique and Craft. Martin wields her materials with control and precision that serve her visual paradigm. Truly accomplished technical execution is always a pleasure to witness but it’s the rare moment when craftsmanship is at the service of such aesthetic dexterity. The surfaces bear no discernible trace of the human hand yet one recognises that they are organic and doggedly non digital. In the hands of a lesser artist this precision might seem cool or worse calculated but Martin’s canvases are witty and conversational. They are as far from the superflat paradigms of Takashi Murakami as one could get.
4.) Tightrope Walking. And here Martin treads an elegant line. They are cheery without being saccharine. The canvases are intelligent without being dogmatic. They are bright without being garish. They exude pleasure yet have resonance. And lastly the paintings dialogue with one another but each remains autonomous. Yes, the whole may be greater than the sum of the parts but boy those parts don’t whither by themselves.
I beseech you to see these bravado paintings in person for although they pack some punch here in the digital world, this is work to be seen in person. The colors vibrate against one another. They will follow you home.
All images used with gracious permission by Luis De Jesus Gallery.
Heather Gwen Martin through October 16th, 2010
LUIS DE JESUS LOS ANGELES
2525 MICHIGAN AVENUE
BERGAMOT STATION F2
SANTA MONICA, CA 90404
T +1 310 453 7773