Post World War II, the largely male cast of American abstract expressionists dubbed the “New York School” served to shift the focus of the western art world from Paris to New York. These painters were central in the creation of New York’s vanguard circle lead by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and later Agnes Martin. On Time: NY to LA uses this movement as a point of reference in order to better understand the use of temporality in contemporary West Coast art practices. Pollock’s drip paintings, or “action paintings,” a term coined by historian Harold Rosenberg in 1952, are remarkable due largely to their emotive force and their optical tendency to strike the viewer all at once. This sense of immediacy is emphasized by the flatness of the picture plane, a visual technique characteristic of abstract expressionist artists.
Tera Galanti’s 16401-482 evokes the drips and spills of a Jackson Pollock painting while extending the picture plane into the space of the gallery, encouraging the viewer to imagine themselves mingling among the colorfully rich stalactites that appear to float mid-air. Galanti challenges the immediacy of action painting with the languid dream-like quality of 16401-482, a work absorbed by viewers as they move around the gallery through time.
In much the same way, Michael Rohde’s fiber works call to mind the expressive flatness of paintings by Mark Rothko with his blocks of rich color. Rohde’s rich woven tapestries are produced over a series of months, though their conception is often spontaneous as a Pollock drip painting.
The ethereal works of Linda Jo Russell channel the grid-like meditative quality of an Agnes Martin drawing. Both artists are fascinated by the delicate power of the line: a fixed unit of measurement existing as an unyielding record of time.
Finally, the irreverent paintings of Ralph Massey employ iconic images from the New York School and beyond, referencing Cy Tombly, de Kooning and others. These works are juxtaposed with figures of birds, the notion of flight emphasizing the temporal-spatial nature of the work. Massey’s technique creates a sort of tromp l’oeil which presses against the two-dimensional nature of the work and further reinforces its immediacy.
In 1950s New York, the abstract expressionist movement focused on the production of a work and the physical expression of the artist. In this way, expressionism is more about the record of expression than the expression itself. On Time: NY to LA brings us back to contemporary Los Angeles and, in doing so, encourages the viewer to examine these iconic works as markers of time in an attempt to better understand the contemporary practices of Galanti, Massey, Russell and Rohde.
ON TIME: NY to LA
Palos Verdes Art Center
5504 W Crestridge Rd
Rancho Palos Verdes CA 90275
January 29th through May 27th, 2009