Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lance Kagey’s visual numerology at Fulcrum

Random calculations

Variation on the Figure 5, letterpress monotype by Lance Kagey
Photo: Courtesy Photo
Variation on the Figure 5, letterpress monotype by Lance Kagey

Published in the Weekly Volcano, March 26, 2009

Lance Kagey is fascinated with our society’s obsession with numbers and statistics, stating that (and I paraphrase) if we cannot quantify it statistically, it doesn’t exist.

In an artist’s statement written for his new show, The distance between the calculated and the random at Fulcrum Gallery, Kagey says: “I present the artifacts of … the relationships between number forms as visual elements and their more pragmatic uses. Using antique wood and lead type on a vintage press, I attempt to allow the beauty of geometry to flow out of the juxtaposition of shape and color. I address the analytical with a painterly approach. I strive to experience the dance of the spirit within our contemporary numeric language. Inspired and taunted by a desire to understand the abstractionists like Pollock, Kline and Basquiat. I attempt to unlock the passions hidden in the form. My goal, to appreciate, without over-analyzation, the subtleties between the calculated and the random.”

Put in layman’s terms, Kagey fills sheets of paper with numbers of various colors shapes and sizes that are laid out in patterns, which balance between the calculated and the random. Numbers become abstract visual elements. There may or may not be implied or symbolic meaning to the numbers he uses, but such meanings — if they exist at all — are secondary to the visual relationships between the colors, values, sizes and patterns of the numbers.

Some of the elements common to most of his prints are: repetitive patterns, numbers grouped into bands or squares, multiple layers of numbers in various degrees of opaqueness and transparency, prints that are limited to one or two hues in many different shades.

Titles and wall statements refer often to landscapes and sunsets, and his networks of numbers do tend to congregate into bands that reflect ground and sky. And they have the luminosity of sunsets.

To me, the most fascinating aspect of these prints is their use of layering of semi-transparent forms — most notably light over dark, which lends a particular vibrancy to the works.

“Behind the veil of science and statistics is the bright light of beauty,” Kagey writes, and the bright light of beauty does indeed shine through these works.

A few examples:

The top half of Rothko Sunrise is all red and orange, and its bottom half is deep blue, black, purple and brown, a beautifully contrasting, hot color scheme.

Let X=X is vastly different from all of the other works in the show because it features a
single letter rather than numbers, a giant red X over a field of almost invisible smaller Xs in light green and tan.

White presents a densely layered field of translucent white numbers over layers of red and blue numbers.

These are simple and bold visual statements that recall the earlier Pop Art works of Robert Indiana and the Op Art of Bridget Riley, and one print, Variation on the Figure 5, which pays homage to one of the earliest precursors of Pop Art, Charles Demuth’s Figure 5 in Gold.

An added bonus to this show is that the works are reasonably priced, which explains why nine out of 16 prints in the show had already sold when I visited the gallery last week.

There will be a Fulcrum Social/Artist Talk Sunday, March 29, at 6 p.m.

[Fulcrum Gallery, through April 29, noon to 6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, and by appointment, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250.0520]

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