Carson van Straaten Gallery sent me two recent reviews by Kyle MacMillan and Michael Paglia of their current exhibit of work by Julia Fernandez-Pol.
I find it interesting that the van Straatens are using the Carson gallery as a retail outlet for artists discovered during residencies at Riverhouse Editions in Steamboat Springs. The holiday exhibit opening tonight at Carson van Straaten features master prints from the Van Straaten gallery in Chicago and new publications from Riverhouse Editions. The opening tonight features a talk by master printer Susan Hover Oehme. At least when we are talking prints with Riverhouse Editions they are done with the traditional printmaking methods–lithography, etchings, and monoprints–and not giclees.
Emerging artist’s solo exhibition a bold display of color and texture
By Kyle MacMillan
November 6, 2008
With concept often trumping craft and the entire medium regularly receiving death notices, revelry in the physical act of painting has hardly been a prized commodity in the contemporary art world for many years.
But if a striking exhibition on view through Nov. 14 at the Carson van Straaten Gallery is any indication, it just might be primed for a comeback.
Vibrant textures and energizing colors dance through this group of 21 paintings and original prints by Julia Fernandez-Pol, 24. The St. Louis native of Argentine descent earned her master of fine arts degree earlier this year from Boston University.
It is unusual for a gallery of this caliber to devote a solo exhibition to such a young and unproven artist, but this ambitious, fully formed body of work more than justifies such a leap of faith.
While most of the paintings — all abstract to varying degrees — suggest aquatic scenes, the real subject matter of these works is painting itself, as it was with abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning in the late 1940s and ’50s.
One of the show’s standouts, “Green Chaos” (2007), a 96-by-80-inch oil on canvas, takes up where famed second-generation abstractionist Joan Mitchell left off. Like the variegated topography of her works, multiple methods of paint application abound in this spirited composition.
Subtle washes and graceful drips commingle with thicker, more assertive sections, including an unruly heap of paint that juts as much as an inch from the canvas. It is chaotic, as the title suggests, but it is controlled, pleasing chaos.
The largest portion of paintings consist of more manicured, evenly textured canvases, whose lush, creamy surfaces look like frosting on a cake. Indeed, Fernandez-Pol’s use of a large syringe to apply thick, squiggly lines of paint is similar to techniques used by cake decorators.
A stunning example is “Lily” (2008), a 60-by-78-inch oil on canvas that loosely depicts a water lily. The central flower, rendered in an explosion of intermingled, non-objective colors, rests on a background of hundreds of petal-shaped ovals of paint in pastel green, blue and lavender, all meticulously applied using a palette knife.
A similar but slightly more complex companion piece is “Cerebro (Brain)” (2008), a 72-by-64-inch oil on canvas with a more involved composition and an even richer mix of textures. In several sections of the canvas, Fernandez-Pol has swished a palette knife through previously applied swaths of paint — a frequent De Kooning technique — flattening and melding the colors in its path.
While watery-colored greens and blues predominate in this show, they do not hold a monopoly. “Mariposa (Butterfly)” (2008), 24 by 18 inches, looks like it was caught in a flash of light. Hues of yellow dominate, with a rainbow of other colors making appearances as well.
If the exhibition has any weaknesses, it would be two decidedly darker, more somber works, including “Introvert” (2007). A desire to offer an emotional counterbalance to the prevailing brightness is understandable, but the less textured style of these pieces proves underwhelming.
Also on view are eight examples from Fernandez-Pol’s “Reef” series of bas relief, hand-painted monotypes. These similarly aquatic-tinged abstractions were printed through Riverhouse Editions, a Steamboat Springs-based fine art publisher whose owners also run the Carson van Straaten Gallery.
She shows herself to be as adept at printmaking as she is at painting, creating colorful, dynamic images that extend many of the techniques she employs in her canvases.
Bursting with talent and potential, this young artist is a find. Fernandez-Pol’s ebullient celebrations of painting make viewers want to celebrate right along with her.
Julia Fernandez-Pol at Carson van Straaten Gallery
By Michael Paglia
November 6, 2008
When Sandy Carson, a fixture in Denver’s contemporary art world, announced earlier this year that she had sold her namesake gallery, even insiders were shocked. Carson has been on the scene since the beginning of time, which in Denver means the 1970s.
The buyers were Bill and Jan van Straaten, who changed the name to the Carson van Straaten Gallery, and many have wondered about the future direction of the gallery. Julia Fernandez-Pol, which highlights recent paintings by this emerging Boston artist, is our first indication, as it’s the initial effort of the new era. It turns out that Fernandez-Pol’s compelling abstract paintings are very compatible with the established aesthetic program that’s been the gallery’s signature for decades; her work looks like a cross between that of Homare Ikeda and Lorey Hobbs, both of whom are part of the gallery’s roster.
Fernandez-Pol first came to the attention of the van Straatens when she earned a residency at Riverhouse Editions, their fine-print outfit in Steamboat Springs, and this show includes a series of embossed monotypes she did at Riverhouse a few months ago, among them “Reef Series, 26” (pictured), which is gorgeous.
Just as spectacular — or maybe even more so, owing to their remarkable tactile qualities — are her incredible oil-on-canvas paintings, many of which are large. The artist’s compositions are crowded with formal elements based on vaguely organic shapes that are held together in the pictures by an awkward sense of balance. She works the paint in a number of ways, most notably by making gigantic brush marks that look like cake decorations, both because they resemble the familiar candy flowers made of frosting and because of the colors, which also suggest the shades that cake frosting comes in.
I loved Fernandez-Pol’s pieces at Carson van Straaten and highly recommend that you check out this show before it closes on November 14.