An international cohort of abstract painters deplanes in San Francisco

Brent Hallard, Installation view.
Brent Hallard, “burger, mo, and the flute”

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.

Nancy White, “Lav-GyP-Fl-Pk_200903,” 2009
Acrylic on hand tinted paper mounted on panel, 8.75 x 10.25″

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.

Mel Prest, “Minor Shades” oil on panel.

“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.

Richard Schur, “Islands (Study),” 2009, acrylic on masonite, 12 x 16 inches

“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.

One Comment

  1. This show, in particular, came out well because of the different spaces we had, or had to work. I think Nancy said that there were over 50 pieces in, and still there was ample enough room for each work to speak. And speak I think the whole exhibition did, though getting there was much like how an individual work sometimes gets forged at stages, with a pitch fork and siren.
    The serene, the charge, the bright and the active were the result of, well, 9 artists jostling with the assistant curator who almost had a heart attack, at 23.
    And then it all was done, in a fraction of the time allotted. And Jarrett (he being the assisting curator) was pardoned, and will live to enjoy his 24th.

    Some interesting notes*

    Leonhard Hurzlmeier walked around exploring some of the more unusual places in which to install his art. He did this in general quietness, while others, including me, with things in hands, would walk past and pause� say, �That works, Leo!�

    Nancy White's quiet but authoritative tiny painted sculptures had to have presence.
    Nancy always thinks of herself last. But this time these pieces went up first. Subtle urges of color plane play between flat and relief. Depending on where you stand you would swear it was the other way. She has been busy ever since with inquires.
    In an interview with Mel Prest earlier this year she talked about mistakes being accentuated, borrowing this from the Japanese tradition of repairing broken ceramics with gold. Mel writes, �The feeling is that a repaired tea bowl becomes more beautiful with its imperfection." Two of these paintings were on the second floor. The first time I could see them.

    Kasarian Dane came down from upstate NY later. His pieces were the last to get the clear. Downstairs a large painting opened the room and breathed. He had to paint it again, because the bolts came off in the travel. Upstairs the quiet of the smaller pieces could have worked, though had to work with other pieces with not so much space to spare. The solution was to go with full impact, triple up, and hang them tight. And it worked. Two flew off to new owners on the opening night.

    Robin McDonnell, Nancy White, and Mel Prest did much of, or all, the organizing for this show. And there was a lot of background things that had to have constant attention. Grants covered a few. These three girls worked with other members who worked with other agencies/schools to eventually cobble together enough to allow all 9 artists to come out and attend. That was great work!
    It was a great surprise, too, to meet Stephen Beal, president of California College of the Arts (CCA). Stephen moderated the panel discussion in such an intuitive and sensitive way that I almost just wanted to listen, to watch how he was able to pull different threads into comparison, or access them.

    And the show was reviewed, which you have posted here.
    Sharon, thank you!

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