Friday, April 3, 2015

Latest shows at Kittredge Gallery

Between Chance and Control

 Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 2, 2015

Makato Fujimura "ISCP Performance," 2007, and is in the collection of the Taylor, Clayton and Lydia Fujimura Trust.
The title of the smaller show in the back gallery at Kittredge Gallery is “Between Chance and Control.” That title well describes the main show as well: “Process Drawings; Recent Works by Makato Fujimura.”

I’m tempted to say Fujimura’s drawings are dull, and in a way they are — dull in the sense of being muted. They are called drawings but are paintings in every sense  of the word. They are large, wall-hanging pieces in mineral pigments, platinum and gold on Japanese papers. These papers look like canvas and the paintings on them look like paint that is poured, splattered, brushed and dripped on unprimed canvas. It soaks into the surface as in works by Helen Frankenthaler or as in some Jackson Pollocks, and in some instances lies on top like paint on the side of an old barn.

A number of them are in tones of gold and gray on a dark brown surface and look for all the world like James Abbott McNeil Whistler’s “Nocturne in Black and Gold.” Others are in black and gray or tones of blue on off-white paper. These are dreamy and contemplative paintings with spiritual and metaphysical themes that call to mind galaxies in the night sky — or in the case of the black-and-whites, Japanese Sumi  paintings, and in the case of the ones in blue, reflections of sky in water.

In a wall statement, the artist writes that his technique “derives from de Kooning’s method of ‘freezing’ the gestures of paint with newsprint.” I’ve looked at works by de Kooning that employ this technique, and for the life of me I can’t imagine any connection to what I see in these paintings.

In the smaller back gallery is a group of works by three former UPS students created at a residency in Leipzig, Germany. The artists are Haley Andres, Abbie Baldwin and Kristan Shuford.

Andres is showing a group of large paintings in oil and watercolor on unstretched canvas that look almost like copies of Fujimura’s drawings but with a little more color. They are cruder in application. Sweeping charcoal or pencil lines give them more definition, as opposed to the mushiness of the poured paint.

Shuford is represented by an installation of two paintings, also on unstretched canvas, and a cardboard sculpture hanging from the ceiling that looks like a Russian constructivist airplane. I like the way the paintings and sculpture work together as a single piece. I just wish the colors weren’t so washed out.

Baldwin is showing a set of wire sculptures that jut out from the wall and look like insect wings.

Like Fujimura’s drawings, all of these are competently executed works but none of them particularly grab me. Perhaps they’ll grab you.

Process Drawings; Recent Works by Makato Fujimura,  Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through March 2, Saturday noon to 5 p.m., Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701]

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