COLORS AND THINGS
nathan green + allie rex + mary anne arntzen
February 6 – March 29, 2014
Salisbury University Art Galleries
“ Socrates: What I am saying is not indeed directly obvious. I must therefore try to make it clear. I will try to speak of the beauty of shapes, and I do not mean, as most people would think, the shpaes of living figures, or thier imitations in paintings, but I mean straight lines and curves and the shapes made from them, flat or solid, by the lathe, ruler or square, if you see what I mean. These are not beautiful for any particular reason or purpose, as other things are, but are always by their very nature beautiful, and give pleasure of their own quite free from the itch of desire; and colors of this kind are beautiful, too, and give a similar pleasure.” —Plato, 4th century B.C.
Compared to representational art, abstraction is said to be a purer form of art. Abstraction’s pure form refers to the elements of art—line, plane, shape, color, volume, etc.—existing in a work as they are rather than in the service of describing some object, person, or landscape. The limitations of mimetic practices were acknowledged as far back as ancient Greece in Plato’s philosophy as the above quote illustrates, yet most people still find abstract art challenging. It seems too simple for some, too random for others. Since the early 20th century however, artists’ interest in this formal language—though at times peripheral—has continued. It seems artists keep returning to the formal because it is somehow primary and perhaps a more direct way to experience beauty. As the quote below by Meyer Schapiro states, feelings and thoughts come before images and therefore abstraction can be a more explicit way of expressing things like love, joy, melancholy, and even the spiritual.
“In art feeling and thought are prior to the represented world.” —Meyer Schapiro, 1937
The three artists in this show represent a wider current trend of a renewed investigation of the once marginalized language of abstraction. They are no doubt influenced by the mid-20th century American abstractionists, yet there is an eccentiricity and exuberance in wha tthey do that seems specific to now. Their work is playful yet serious, structured but also happily accidental. Sometimes within this work recognizable things show up as these artists play with the boundary between image and form. While the tangible may appear, it is the intangible that seems most important. Through rigorous work in the studio these three produce things that appear fresh and effortless. Their lucid and ecstatic works create analogies for nature rather than pictures of it.
“I think they (the public) should not look for, but look passively – and try to receive what the painting has to offer and not bring a subject matter or preconceived idea of what they are to be looking for.. .and I think the unconsciousness drives do mean a lot in looking at paintings.. .I think it should enjoyed just as music is enjoyed – after a while you may like it or you may not. But it doesn’t seem to be too serious. I like some flowers, and others, other flowers I don’t like. I think at least it gives – at least give it a chance.” —Jackson Pollock, 1950