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The Rules of Abstraction
by Jack Foran
Jill Weber’s paintings at Nina Freudenheim Gallery
Erstwhile architecture student turned painter Jill Weber’s artwork on display at the Nina Freudenheim Gallery is about the basically mental process of the abstraction of physical architecture into visual art simply, and basically physical process of material realization of the abstractions.
The abstraction process seems fairly straightforward. Three dimensions become two. The material realization process—the actual making of the paintings—is more complicated, as more fraught with choices among alternative means of achieving alternative effects. Subtle effects, within a deliberately narrow compass.
The result is a series of variations on a theme. The imagery is entirely geometrical against black or equivalent void space backgrounds, varied from painting to painting in terms of composition, color, scale, surface tones and textures—glossy or matte—and materials. Sometimes the composition—the pattern of imagery—is repeated exactly, but varied by other means—scale, colors, surface, etc.
In addition to paint as a medium, the artist uses tape, to achieve straight lines, she said. Usually the tape is then removed, but sometimes actual tape lines—in different colors and types of tape—are included as part of the finished work. As pictorial elements, but also as indicating a layering process that is part and parcel of the larger process of choice among alternative means and effects.
She said she typically starts with an iPhone photo of a limited-view architectural situation, maybe an alleyway, maybe with prominent stairway, a fire escape. She then proceeds to further abstraction sketches, on gridded canvas or board, in pencil and tape and paint. The prominent stairways may appear as zig-zags traversing a painting top to bottom or confined areas of lath-like roughly parallel sliver bars of light against dark.
The grid lines facilitate changes of scale. A painting called Structural Diagram red, dimensions 12 inches by 12 inches, has generated a larger-scale near-duplicate version, Structural Diagram red 2, dimensions 36 by 36 inches. Bolder contrasts of colors and textures to go with the greater scale, for an all in all more dynamic, more forceful presentation, the smaller work more quiet and composed, and ultimately perhaps more vital, more vibrant. Another version, called Structural Diagram red/yellow/blue, dimensions 12 by 12 inches, offers more color and also more texture via thinned paint applied then further thinned by scraping, as with a flat blade, to reveal the delicate grain of the wood panel ground. Among other effects in the red/yellow/blue piece, a greater sense of three-dimensionality than with the more opaque surfaces—whether high gloss or matte—of the other versions. And ultimately more warm and hospitable sense.
Two rather similar stairways paintings are in a cubist mode, and strongly reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s virtuoso cubist painting Nude Descending a Staircase. Only without the nude. Just the staircase. A matter of cubist abstraction further abstracted. Weber said—in another context—that what she is interested in presenting in her paintings is architecture as a skeletal system, as bare bones. Duchamp would have appreciated.
Weber studied architecture at UB and subsequently received a degree in painting from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and has lived and worked in Boston in the architectural trade, meanwhile making her paintings. The current exhibit continues through December 11.blog comments powered by Disqus
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