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Sharp Corners: a new exhibit at GLHF

Hello painters,

This past week, a lot of time has gone into prepping for my new class beginning tonight and setting up for a new exhibit in our garage gallery. This is the second exhibit we’ve hosted in our DIY gallery space, and this one is especially relevant to our newsletter theme.

This exhibit, titled Sharp Corners, features three Austin artists who are working in a very edgy style. Come to think of it, it’s about as far as you can get from the artist featured in last week’s edition. The style employed by these three makes use of lots of geometry, a little bit of math, and a couple rolls of masking tape.

Geometric abstraction is something I’ve always been interested in, so it’s a pleasure to have these artists featured in our gallery. While all three can be gathered under the umbrella of this specific style of painting, all three take different approaches to get there.

Below, read my thoughts about the work in this show, and click here to find out a little background info for each individual artist.

“The flickering light through the leaves of a tree or the unexpected shadow cast across the room: these are the things I choose to focus on.” - NK

Let me start by hurtling us, with little warning, about 100 years back in time. In 1925, the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset compared looking at modern art to staring through a window at a garden. The viewer can look through the window to see the shrubs and colorful flowers, or the viewer can adjust their “ray of vision” so that it stops at the window, resulting in a “confused mass of color which appears pasted to the pane.”

In this conception, OyG was noticing that more and more modern artists were ignoring the pretty scene outside and instead focusing on the jumbled mass of colors. A few decades earlier, the Impressionists were purposefully squinting at their landscapes and other subjects to reduce clarity and increase focus on the more subjective, personalized impact of colors and light.

And so, this metaphor provides us with alternate approaches to creating art as well as viewing it. The artist can adjust their viewpoint and focus on the representation of the world outside, the depiction of landscapes or other scenes. Their painting becomes a window into another world. Or, the artist can shift the focus of their painting to subjective experiences, personal impressions, or formal concerns that don’t provide the viewer with an illusion of space.

While curating this show, I loved the way that these three artists provided a spectrum of approaches. Their three different bodies of work show us what results from shifting the “ray of vision” from the window pane to the garden outside.

Daniel Hurlbut is the artist drawing our eye to the window’s surface with his focus on geometric patterns laid out in stark black on white. During Ortega y Gasset’s time, artists like Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian were creating compositions that mimicked the geometry of windows, with colored fields bordered by black strips.

Hurlbut would find himself at home with these artists, although he demonstrates interests that would take him further beyond the De Stijl artists. Daniel’s work explores optical effects and plays with our perceptions of space. Comparing Daniel’s works against each other is an interesting exercise, since the boldness of their black on white design hides their subtleties. The eye actively searches for the similarities and contrasts, which are not always immediately obvious.

Find more of Daniel Hurlbut’s fascinating geometric compositions on his website here.

Natalie Keuss’s paintings take us the next step of the way toward our metaphorical garden, although this time we are directing our focus toward the glass of the window and the light’s effect on it. This is reflected in the titles of Keuss’s work (pictured above is Tinted Sunglasses, also featured in this exhibit are Sea Glass and Rose Tinted Glasses).

Each Keuss composition plays with geometric shapes that could resemble shards of glass laid on top of one another, so that the pieces on top influence the colors of those below. With each painting, Natalie takes us through her interpretations of color theory, and at 24 x 36 inches each panel is large enough for your vision to be completely absorbed by these colorful fields.

While Natalie’s work is clearly concerned with color theory and our perceptions of it, they are also distinctly physical objects. These paintings deserve to be investigated up close, so that one can appreciate the texture of the surface and the thick borders delineating one color from another. This sets up a nice contrast between the first impression of flatness and the physical reality of the work.

For more of these candy-colored stained glass pieces, visit the portfolio of Natalie Keuss here.

And finally, as we gaze out of our window at the work of Christina Moser, we are presented with a series of alien landscapes: a blood red moon, night and day coexisting at once, a new celestial body being unveiled from behind red curtains. Christina’s talent with her airbrush is equal to her skill for setting a specific mood, a mystical atmosphere, with visions that can be both strange yet inviting.

Because Moser’s work moves further into the representational world than with the other two artists, she provides a nice counterpoint approach while still utilizing similar creative techniques. With her gentle color gradients and mystical visions, she provides the softer touch to the sharp corners of this show. More images and info about Christina Moser can be seen at her website here.

Thanks for reading this brief intro to the artists and work on view at GLHF! It was a lot of fun putting this show together and getting familiar with each of these artists.

My paraphrasing of Ortega y Gasset’s useful metaphor was taken from the newly published book Abstract Art by Pepe Karmel, which I will be undoubtedly sharing more with you the more I read it.

If you are in the Austin area and would like to visit this show in person, you can book your (safe and socially distant) visit online here. You can also check out this video we created for the show on YouTube here.

And finally, here are your tunes for this week:

Marcin Wasilewski Trio - Sudovian Dance
Charles Lloyd - How Can I Tell You?
Sonny Rollins - Way Out West (full album)
Brad Mehldau - When It Rains
Daniel Koestner - Racoon House Music
Pat Metheny Group - Are You Going With Me?

See you next time, and happy painting
(° ͜ʖ͡°)

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