Sunday, September 24, 2017

Unfamiliar Again: Contemporary Woman Abstractionists at Newcomb Art Museum

This Unfamiliar Again exhibition lives up to its name, but not always as you might expect. Some of the most traditional looking works turn out to have been made with surprisingly high tech techniques, and some of the most radical looking pieces were made using some of the most traditional methods. Either way, this selection of recent abstract works by seven women artists from all across America suggests an eerie magical mystery tour of the myriad ways art and technology have influenced each other, and continue to influence each other. They also remind us of how challenging it has become to clearly represent the “real” world in an age of slithery digital simulation and click-bait titillation.


Among the more obviously digitally inspired works are Anne Vieux's prismatic paintings that evoke  rainbow-hued mirror mazes or cosmic views of deep space in a holographic universe. Rendered on odd materials like faux-suede, works like Eclipse, above left, create their own reality through their lyrically fluid depth. Amy Ellingson's large pop abstractions recall Jean Dubuffet's modernist blob-like canvases but are actually based on manipulated digital files, just as Morgan Blair's compositions recall surreal 1970s “pattern and design” paintings, but were digitally distilled from YouTube face paint and Claymation tutorials. Rachel Beach and Alyse Rosner are both inspired by wood, but Beach's abstract sculptures suggest sleekly mysterious machine parts painted in designer colors like trendy wrapping paper, whereas  Rosner's paintings like Bittersweet, above, suggest the patterning of wood grain and the growth rings of trees as metaphors for the densely encoded layers of digital imaging techniques. Conversely, Brittany Nelson's darkly ethereal wall panels, for instance Mordancage 4, above left, look futuristic but are really products of modified 19th century photographic chemistry. Barbara Takanaga's “Zen surrealist” paintings like Darlingtonia, top, are so convincingly cosmic that they suggest light vector technology, but were crafted quite traditionally, via paint meticulously applied with brushes. As she puts it: “I just sit... and wait for them to tell me what to do” as they “naturally gravitate to some kind of explosive/implosive situation.” ~Bookhardt / Unfamiliar Again: Contemporary Women Abstractionists, Through Dec. 23, Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, 865-5328.