These are strange times for abstract art. A radical art-form in the early-to-mid 20th century, it has actually become more familiar, even domesticated– a traditional genre. The broad stylistic currents appear to have actually been mapped out: geometric, biomorphic, expressionist, color field. But it stays, in the finestthe very best hands, a source of surprise.
An open secret is abstraction’s strong regional presence. This month, two of Ithaca’s most interesting exhibitions spaces are revealing leading regional abstractionists. Corners Gallery has actually mounted “OneTwoThree,” featuring Ruth Sproul (through June 30), while the Eye Gallery presents “Spring Loaded,” including Melissa Zarem (June 26). Both artists incorporate drawing media into their paintings, enlivening their expressionism with intimate doodling.
This is Sproul’s 3rd exhibit at Corners. (Zarem has actually shown there as well, notably in 2014 with her partner Elise Nicol). Her existing program is so named for her exploration of diptych and triptych formats alongside self-standing paintings. All are on wood panels, generally upright. For her multi-panel pieces, they have been adjoined side-by-side in box frames.
Sproul uses both oil and acrylic– sometimes together– in addition to ink and crayon. Her mark-making is diverse: expressionist smears, clean blocks of color, and confetti-like black lines. Her color here is brighter, more capitivating than in the past.
Two little triptychs, Fields and Sky and Swab, suggest landscape in their colors, layering, and helter-skelter energy.
Sproul’s Bookmarks Task consists of three big, white-painted panels, lined with a grid of upright paper “bookmarks” of different sizes. She shares her bibliophilia with another Corners artist, Barbara Page, whose series of altered library bank card has a comparable pastiche quality. While even Sproul’s many compelling works have an ungainly quality, Zarem’s fulfill you majority method.
Her blended media deals with paper blend painting and drawing in a layered hybrid of archaeological complexity. Taking benefitMaking the most of paper’s inherent generosity as a surface area, she stirs together acrylic, gouache, ink, and chalk. Her pieces combine the sort of raw gestures and drips that one partnersconnect with mid-century abstract expressionism with detailed hatches and doodles closer in general spirit to the old master illustration or print– I thinkconsider Leonardo’s late Deluge illustrations, detailed phantasmagoria of apocalyptic floods.
In the last couple of years, Zarem has actually been conspicuously effective by the standards of local art. A hectic schedule of exhibitions at numerous local and regional places was capped last summer by her inclusion in “Locally Sourced,” an 11-artist survey of Ithaca artists at Cornell’s Johnson Museum. Her work was a highlight of that program and was subsequently gotten for the museum’s long-term collection.
Impure, ingratiating, and deeply abundant, Zarem paintings are both sophisticated and easy to like. Her work at eye, many of it framed behind glass, shows her range– her capability to take a familiar lexicon of marks and keep combing them in new methods. The exhibit juxtaposes works at various scales, with the tiniest pieces readily holding their one.
Unironed Will is an upright painting, a few feet in height, dominated by vertiginous loops and tangles of black and white ink and paint. Patches and spots of bold red and Indian yellow– and faint clouds of pale yellow and dirty gray– addcontribute to the sense of legendary. As they do somewhere else, nearly tiny white hatches and dashes recommend foam. Subtle vertical striations, drawn and leaked, recommend gravity and weight.
Zarem is just as engaging when her pieces are little. Murmuration, a tiny square, appears to have almost as much going on as anything here. Diving Block is an upright strip with Rothko-like patches of color in the background: stormy dark gray above and milky white below. Smaller sized spots of magenta and greenish ochre punctuate the top half while compact scribbles of black ink do the very same at the bottom– the vaguely grid-like general patterns suggests writing or musical notation.
In a typically playful move, eye Gallery mastermind Julie Simmons-Lynch has actually released a coloring book, Spring Loaded. Four square-shaped black-and-white ink drawings produced the book translate Zarem’s style into something dry and linear. They’re captivating but they’re pleading to be colored in– not necessarily within the lines.
Both artists, each with their unique design, delight in abstraction’s capacity to evoke and transform the visual experience. Far from being but formal exercises, these pieces stimulate worlds both inside us and without.