GRID REFERENCES “8100,” by Noa Warren, acrylic on linen on panel, 2008.
Kendra Ferguson and Noa Warren are deftly paired at June Fitzpatrick’s Congress Street gallery this month, as an established and emerging artist each compulsive explore the subjective and human potential of minimalism. Though experience greatly divides the two (Ferguson’s work spans 35 years, while Warren’s only dates back to 2008), their work is strikingly complementary, sharing a meticulous restraint matched, it seems, by proliferation. Both artists use the confines of hard lines and simple geometries to filter personal expression, but approach their materials sensitively, distilling experience and history to form meditative multi-dimensional objects.
Ferguson’s drawings and sculptures exude concurrent confidence and reticence, using bold simple forms that almost overshadow quieter nuances in the work. In both mediums she adheres to a minimal vocabulary, and is fastidious in executing perfect forms and consistent lines, but allows whim and femininity to soften and personalize the work. Her sculptures are architectural and obsessive, and while reminiscent of Carl Andre’s building-block-like arrangements, are carved from flushed red beech or maple, infusing them with warmth and familiarity. The effect of shadows and subtle turbulence of clashing wood grains are pleasing to discover, and carefully placed notches at once suggest decorative fringe and mathematical or musical code. It is this oscillation between the object and the metaphor that make Ferguson’s work both monumental and approachable.
SEVERITY AND SUGGESTIONS “Dance Class 2,” by Kendra Ferguson, incised line and aquarelle, 2009.
A perfect red circle is centered on handmade white paper in Ferguson’s drawing “Dance Class 2,” with an arc cutting through the composition to suggest a larger circle. The command of red and the severity of a perfect circle display control, but incised lines skirt around the forms, barely perceptible, flirting with the flawless shapes and inviting chaos.
Like “Dance Class 2,” Ferguson’s titles bring her work from the intellectual to the personal realm, grounding the images in places or memories, as she discusses in her artist statement.
Though Warren is only three years out of art school, this is his second show coupled with an established artist at June Fitzpatrick in the last two years, and again, he is proving to hold his own. Both artists here could be seen as paying quiet homage to Agnes Martin: Ferguson in her drawing “I Remember Sky-1C” and her expressionist approach to minimalism, and Warren more directly meditating on the symbol, or vehicle, of the grid.
While Warren relies on the grid in his reductive paintings on linen, they are far from literal, incorporating illusion to defy conventions of two-dimensional space and question perception. His paintings are largely sculptural, depicting crumpled graph paper so meticulously rendered that the forms reject the linen they hover over and appear self-contained.
The lines composing Warren’s crumpled grids recall the delicacy of thread and lace, and are pretty, challenging the strictness inherent in the guidelines posed by the grid. The work is most successful when creases and folds of the grid are arbitrary and organic, deteriorating the form, as opposed to carefully measured and uniform folds. While the subject matter is unsentimental, the linen he paints on is salvaged from his grandmother’s attic, and though this history is not overplayed in the work, the antique umber of raw linen subtly competes with the soft palette of white and pastel blue, to ghostly and nostalgic effect.
Varied in scale, Warren’s paintings lose some of their effect in larger works. Though the feat of production of a seamless 60-by-60-inch version of his smaller grids is impressive, the bite-size paintings are somehow more captivating, and reside more ambiguously in illusion.