by Sally Wright Day
From the June, 2016 issue
I don't "presearch" art exhibits. No site checking. No bios. I want fresh eyes, a mind uncluttered by prejudice, and an openness to the art even if it's not on my list of favorite styles.
That objective stance didn't last long at Unconstrained, Elizabeth Schwartz's current show at the WSG Gallery. Schwartz paints the top tier of my fave list: abstracts.
I wasn't alone. "Ohhhh, this is exactly me," my companion said as we stepped into WSG. An art school grad, mega-art lover, and occasional practitioner of abstract painting, she veered off one way, exploring, and I took the opposite. We were both gaping at these luscious acrylic paintings. Another couple of women were already there, pointing, talking animatedly, separating and then calling out to each other across the gallery to come see.
Looking over the exhibit as a whole, I saw shapes as colors, colors as shapes, and formless lines that hint at forms. At first the hues seem muted with grays, subtle blues, and overall softness predominating. Paradoxically, almost every painting is punctuated with bold, thin strokes of a sort of structural black and sudden punches of fluorescence. Yet each painting seems thoughtful, even contemplative.
"This new series explores a dichotomy--open, peaceful, and quietly neutral spaces which are interrupted by forms and shapes, moving through, becoming submerged and reappearing in these spaces," Schwartz writes in her artist statement. "As these two forces interact, I often create a certain tension through the introduction of lines, juxtaposed against quiet space, thereby energizing the painting."
Exactly. Take Firmament. A calm blue-gray dominates, with darker corners and collections of soft oranges, yellows, and greens throughout. But then there's a splash of neon pink and a few eye-popping greens. Black lines form a sort of spine and then shred and hatch, building an open structure. But there are also hints of bodily forms: legs and breasts, a head and torso. Stepping back, it then evolves into a formless exploration, as if it's a thought
inside a thought--like a daydream that's suddenly interrupted by a phone call but returns even as your caller is talking.
A couple works depict bolder, more structured forms, like Rock Form Ramble, where black defines the background and makes outlined shapes pop. Aerial uses cerulean blue to the same effect. So there's a subtle dichotomy even in the show itself.
It turns out Schwartz herself is a dichotomy: an experienced lawyer--whose former titles include Ann Arbor city attorney and assistant state attorney general--and an artist. What an amazing contrast from law's exacting constraints to the freedom and meditation of abstract art.
You can treat yourself to the same meditative luxuries until the exhibit ends June 18.
[Originally published in June, 2016.]
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