In the San Francisco Chronicle, Kenneth Baker reports that “Trans: Form/Color” at Meridian Gallery is an exploration of abstraction and how it has evolved. “Early practitioners of abstract painting might plausibly claim that the meaning of their work inhered in its form. But the meanings of abstraction evolved quickly through mimicry, pastiche and the burgeoning of art in reproduction.’Trans: Form/Color’ at Meridian Gallery offers a snapshot of that process of change with a selection of works by an international cohort of abstract painters – calling itself ‘Trans’ – who stay in touch through the Internet and occasional travel. The pronounced differences in style among the artists at Meridian – even among those living in the Bay Area – must make us wonder to what extent, if any, abstract painting today can be a collective project, as some in the first half of the 20th century thought it could.
“Robin McDonnell and John Zurier, for example, both work improvisationally, but we would never confuse paintings by the two, at least not any of those on view. McDonnell’s ‘Affect/Effect: Silver Black Blue’ (2009) registers the activity of someone trying to forget as she goes, less to sustain spontaneity than to outrun second thoughts. McDonnell also appears to want to lay open the suggestiveness – the hints of light, space, scale and depiction – that seem instinctive in her materials at this stage in their history. Zurier also seems to paint with as much preparation and as little forethought as possible. But his washy, thinly painted canvases evoke a much slower creative tempo, not in the motions of the hand but in the preparation and episodes that contribute to a work’s completion. Sensitivity to that kind of distinction affects one’s perception of the world.
“The same sensitivity can detect a difference in tone between Stephan Fritsch‘s paintings and Zurier’s. Despite a superficial resemblance in their techniques, the two painters clearly think differently about what they do. Without making a project of it, Zurier somehow keeps irony at bay. Fritsch finds irony inescapable, embedded in his art itself, and so tries to take it in hand through touch, color, scale and choice of support.
“If asked to guess which Trans painter lives in Tokyo, I would have guessed – correctly – Brent Hallard. He works on stacked sheets of plastic in a manner that alludes both to hard-edge abstraction and shaped canvases of the 1960s and the shrill, brittle cuteness of Japanese pop culture – the most conspicuous tension registered in the Meridian show.
“The big discovery here for the Bay Area art public will be the work of Munich painter Richard Schur. Positioning himself among the progeny of constructivism, Schur paints intimate, adventurously patterned rectilinear shapes on canvas or panel, such as ‘Nuit de la Grande Complication (Study)’ (2009). He apparently masks areas to achieve crisp contours, but composes intuitively, despite the plotted look his work sometimes has. Schur’s keen alertness to quantities and intensities of color makes his work more engaging to the eye than any description could convey.
For a set of Flickr images of the show, click here.
“Trans: Form / Color,” Meridian Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Through December 19, 2009. Artists include Kasarian Dane, Stephan Fritsch, Brent Hallard, Leonhard Hurzlmeier, Robin McDonnell, Mel Prest, Richard Schur, Nancy White, John Zurier.
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