8 of the Inkspot members will be showing at the
Santa Barbara Tennis Club
Reception March 13th 5:3-7:30pm
Gallery open daily from 10-9pm
For more information:
Returning to the Santa Barbara Tennis Club after a show a year ago, the 'Abstract 8' brings the abstract art impulse
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
January 16, 2015 5:39 AM
When: through February 6
Where: Santa Barbara Tennis Club, 2375 Foothill Rd.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
To borrow and twist a phrase, the death of abstraction is greatly exaggerated. Yes, it's true that abstract painting has taken something of a back seat and/or underground position in the discourse of the fine-art world over the past half century or so, its Abstract Expressionist heyday having been nudged aside by Minimalism, Conceptualism, Neo-Expressionism, New Figurative-ism and other -ism forces. And yet the impulse and the essence — as well as the contemporary practice — of abstraction remains a powerful energy, both in terms of its historical influence and the continuing explorations of its abiding advocates in the field.
Abstract painters, and artists in other media, are a driven and individualist bunch, even here in Santa Barbara. Last weekend, two abstract shows opened in spaces off to the side of the dedicated gallery scene: as part of the Michael Kate décor store's art-on-walls showcases, and in a return engagement at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club's long and ongoing art exhibition series.
Apparently these artists didn't get the memo about the medium's demise, and are carrying on with their work in lively fashion, an infectious spirit conveyed to us, the beholders.
A year ago, the group calling itself, with coalitional gusto and plain-speak naming, the Abstract 8, put on a Tennis Club show called "Purely Abstract." That show was not, strictly speaking, purely abstract, and neither is this year's model, but the subtle push-pull of abstract against real-world representation can be part of the art's internal workings.
Underscoring the point that abstraction is a broad and personalized field, each artist of the eight in this show projects a different aesthetic bearing and look. Each arrives at a signature style through palette, depth vs. flatness, use of medium and that X factor of innate artistic attitude. The diversity of voices in the eight-part mix enhances the overall experience.
Situated like an exhibition stage-setter for this show, Marlene Struss' "Fall Finale" and "Campfire Connection" establish the tone of an abstract painterly language, guided by the color/formal hints of their titles. Her triptych "Brainstorm" embodies its title through a style of knotty visual organization that seems both intricate and randomized, like visions of cellular or vascular activity. These are busy meshes, but also soft-spoken and contemplative despite the bustle.
By contrast, Penny Arntz's "Ex Libris" deftly combines hard-edged angles and areas of flat color with patches of vivid brushwork. Neutrality dances with cool gestural flourish. Her series of smaller pieces, called "Poetry, Silence and Solitude," introduces vague elements of landscape, without leaving the abstract zone.
Sara Lytle also finds expressive energy through fusing and suggesting abstract and realistic materials, as in the large "Red Door, Transport," a rugged blending of paint, tactile mixed media and a token rustic, red-doored house as part of its pictorial ploy. Reality takes on a palpable, three-dimensional materiality in the work of Scott Miller, who goes three-dimensional and atavistic in weirdly gray-ish, chunky relief pieces. His series "Archeological Amamnesis" ("amamnesis" as in ritual memorial or reminiscence) plays like an exercise in imaginary archeology as art, a tweaking of theatricalized ancient memory.
Hazy, dream-like scenes are the artistic world conveyed in Karen Pendergrass' paintings, with scruffy geometries and dripping, scraping, obscuring and overlapping colors effectively defining her own private language in paint.
Meanwhile, a different aura of dreaminess surfaces in the printworks of Rosemarie C. Gebhart, whose pieces "Nocturne" and "Day Trippin" — dark and light, respectively — seem to delve into some interior world or parallel reality. Her fragile, splotchy visions, moving away from the brushwork and gestural feel of the painters in the group, are beguiling in their own detached, cosmic way.
So, too, goes the work of Maria Miller, the one artist here using, and freely altering, the medium of photography, to expressly abstracted ends. Through digital darkroom means, she explores and invents her own sense of space and visual feel, in pieces like "Levels" and "Santa Barbara Summers." Jagged and disjointed organization of shapes mix in with areas of ultra-soft focus and "darkroom mishap" effects to create an evocative post-photographic reality far from the reality we know, at street level.
In a fond throwback to abstraction's '50s-era day in the artworld sun, Rick Doehring's "A Long Day at the Office" goes for the post-Jackson Pollock drip, sponge and splatter approach to image-making (and imagery-avoidance). Riffing off of the teasing wink of the title, the painting teeters at a juncture between orderliness and both freedom and brewing existential crisis. Ah yes, office life. Ah yes, the abstractionist life, in the "office" of one's own studio and painter brain.