Sunday, October 2, 2011

Iva Gueorguieva's "Prefiguration" at Heriard-Cimino


Sometimes you don't know where you've been until you see it receding in a rear view mirror. When the 21st century began, the usual postmodern tropes of the previous century still applied. A decade later, “postmodern” is a word that is seldom heard in reference to art or architecture. There even seems to be an unheralded revival of classical modernism, with new building designs that look positively 1965 (like the new University Medical Center), while in visual art there has been a quiet reprise of abstraction that evokes 1950s action painting, even as the best examples look relatively fresh today. Iva Gueorguieva's new paintings, for instance, MACHINE VISION, top, are darkly passionate in ways that recall the existentialist intensity of America's mid-20th century painters, poets and musicians—at first glance you can almost hear Charlie Parker or John Coltrane, or even Allen Ginsberg reciting riffs from HOWL: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked...”  in a miasma of espresso, pot and cigarette smoke.

But that was then. Who is this woman? Bulgaria-born, Philadelphia-educated Gueorguieva lived in New Orleans for three years, then moved to Los Angeles seemingly on a whim a month before Katrina struck. The works in this show were based on her New Orleans memories, and the best of them display similarly perfect timing expressed as prismatic cul-de-sacs and gestural slashes. CLINAMEN, above, is a masterpiece of swirling vortexes and painterly mini- tornadoes as well as controlled  explosions like fireworks in a labyrinth. The name refers to the tendency of atoms to swerve, as predicted by the classical Greek philosopher Epicurus in an eerie anticipation of Einstein and Heisenberg.  AUTO EXTRACTION, top right, is a lyrical example of visionary abstraction that harks to that portentous point in the 1940s when the surrealism of Arshile Gorky and Roberto Matta morphed seemingly full blown into abstract expressionism. Matta called it “morphologies,” landscapes of the inner world, things felt more than seen. The look may be related, but Gueorguieva makes it lyrically her own. ~Bookhardt

PREFIGURATION: New Paintings by Iva Gueorguieva, Through Oct. 29, Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., New Orleans, LA 525-7300;