Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ali Smith: Exploring the Unknown

[“Merge” (2011), oil on canvas. “Superstructure (2010), oil on canvas. “Civil War” (2011), oil on canvas. “Shard” (2011), oil on canvas. “Waves” (2011), oil on canvas. “Gut Glum” (2011), oil on canvas. “Shape Be Sweet” (2011), oil on canvas.]

Five centuries ago, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) embarked on a three-year world voyage, crossing the Atlantic and continuing through to the Pacific—naming the latter in discovering previously uncharted territory. The world was Magellan’s blank canvas, absorbing his narrative as his ship cut its swath through history. Since then, our world has been mapped and charted in minute detail via today’s satellite, internet, and GPS technologies—leaving little to be pinpointed, described, and investigated. What remains is the terrain of imagination inhabited by artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and scientists—many of whom continue to probe “uncharted waters.” While cynics attempt, on occasion, to declare painting’s demise, Smith uses her brilliant medium to explore the unknown.

In this show—her second at Freight + Volume (up through June 18, 2011)—Smith’s journey on canvas is a culmination of stray thoughts, fleeting moments, utter curiosity, and the tenuous line between fact and fiction. Her chosen medium girds her empty landscape and allows her resultant abstract terrains punctuating celebratory and Rococo-like excess and abundance.

Picking up where Arshile Gorky (1904-1948), Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), Philip Guston (1913-1980), and Roberto Matta (1911-2002) left off, Ali Smith delves into deep and near space on her canvases—each painting a window into an unseen world. Her thick and thin brushstrokes, dazzling color, and sculptural relief and flat background—contrasted with muted monochromes—create an unfolding and theatrical mis-a-scene tableau. Such painting titles as “Territory,” “Luxe Life,” “Into The Deep,” and “To Here Knows When” offer clues into the twists and turns of her journey. Smith’s recent paintings sort through daily life’s very complexity of daily life and relate this through a direct, raw language of abstraction at once lyrical and rough. Each painting is created in the moment, intuitively creating and laying bare the world Smith would like to visit or inhabit—while remembering their dimensions of complexity and contradiction.

Through these exuberant works, a viewer is offered a glimpse and gift of the quest in which Ali Smith has long been immersed. Her private and invented utopia is as much compelling as escapist. While the canvases in “Merge” have allowed Smith to make sense of conflict and cacophony, they offer solace and inspiration to those who absorb her works.

Living and working in Long Beach, California, Ali Smith has exhibited her work internationally in such venues as: Mark Moore Gallery (Santa Monica), Rhys Gallery (Boston), Pulse (Miami), DNA Galerie (Berlin), Smith’s work has been reviewed in such publications as Artus, the Los Angeles Times, NYArts, and Artweek.

Meanwhile, inter-disciplinary artist Suko Presseau exhibits her multi-screen installation “Love and Ceremony” in Freight + Volume’s video room. Concerned primarily with nature and ritual in her performance and video, Presseau utilizes eco-consciousness, kinesthetics, humor, and spiritual practice in her work. In “Love and Ceremony,” she has combined several vignettes such as “Vernal Fire Moon,” "Love and Ceremony,” and “Fish-Skin" to form a whole. Presseau explores agricultural, trade, and spiritual themes—taking cues from changing seasons, astronomical markers of time, and natural or man-made environments. She conflates memory and meaning, fact and fiction, and reality and fantasy in her suggested narratives to make sense of the individual within the world.

Ali Smith
Through June 18, 2011
530 West 24th Street NYC 10011

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