METICULOUSLY CLEAN “Landscape Space #4,” by Joe Kievitt.
While each of the artists exhibiting at ICON this month is stylistically distinct and refined, the relationships between the work of Joe Kievitt, Meghan Brady, and Andrea Sulzer provide a welcome cohesion, and a unique peek into the practice of three individual artists who have a dialogue outside the gallery. The three are part of a drawing group, along with local artists Karen Gelardi and Anna Hepler, which has been meeting several times a month for the last year. This show was organized in part by the artists, acknowledging shared themes and a potential conversation among the works. Notable threads connecting their work are playfulness curtailed by a strict formalism or a meticulous process, and an affinity for layering and weaving, referencing decorative arts, especially textiles.
Most obviously appropriating an arts-and-crafts aesthetic are Kievitt’s kaleidoscopic works on paper, using such textile motifs as plaid, quilting, and stitching to form illusionary compositions that are simultaneously organic and rigid. His manipulation of color relationships and their varying intensities render familiar patterns active and fresh.
While most of what I’ve seen of Kievitt’s work has been grayscale, as with Sulzer, his recent work seems to have leapt into Technicolor, while maintaining the similar quiet perfection of previous work. The work is meticulously clean, his control of the saturation of ink puzzlingly consistent, as though manufactured. Conceptually, the work is pleasing in this contradiction: works made by hand which romanticize a mass-produced commonality. Kievitt uses stencils to achieve his lines, and while this may explain their flawlessness, the fact that he constructs his own is equally impressive.
Sulzer’s work is at once imposing and passive, and her capacity for rambling, even whimsical, exactitude demands a closer look. While she explores similar themes of memory and landscape in various media, the drawings and paintings featured here read like studies for her striking reductive woodblock prints, each unique, and each sumptuously thick with layers of ink, resulting in an apparent tactile effect like enamel or cloisonné. “Current,” arguably one of the strongest pieces in the show, compositionally references Japanese woodblocks, with ambiguous organic forms in a vibrating spread of contrasting and complimentary colors suggesting water lilies and Botticelli shells, or perhaps a stylized lichen. In contrast, “Like Moving Backward Gently” uses the same process, with thickly layered ink, but is stricter and more blatantly figural, with a series of boldly saturated centimeter squares mimicking words or letters on a page.
Sulzer’s work resides in a place both diaristic and scientific, exploring subjective inquiries and conflicts with potential personal or universal truths. Her watercolor and Conté crayon dreamscapes are expressive and naïve in a Chagall-like spectrum, but are grounded and interrupted by strict grids, which at times provide compositional relief, or pose a formal question.
While Sulzer’s grids anchor her organic compositions, Meghan Brady uses the grid as a jumping-off point for her glossy oil paintings, which seem to thrive in the conflict between hard lines and expressive dry-brush strokes. Brady borrows Blinky Palermo-like shapes and layers to form composite diamonds or geological structures that are both self-contained and appear ready to burst. The effect of bold contemporary neons breaking through a palette of muted puce and muddy maroon mirrors the tension between her forms and the edges of canvas in her compositions. Two untitled oils on board found in the downstairs gallery seem to gently mock her other paintings, with shapes physically cut and layered, adding another dimension to paintings achieving the same effect through color relationships and a steady hand.
Annie Larmon can be reached at email@example.com.
WORKS BY JOE KIEVITT + MEGHAN BRADY + ANDREA SULZER | Icon Contemporary Art, 19 Mason St, Brunswick | 207.725.8157