Post Road Magazine #14

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Current Abstraction by Margaret Roleke

The five artists presented here have been working within the tradition of abstraction but have taken the use of color, form, pattern, and texture to a new level. The artists—Joseph Fucigna, Eva Lee, Melinda Hackett, Peter Hildebrand, and Laura Watt—have each found their own unique vocabulary along the way, their work exhibiting a contemporary edge that gives these issues of abstraction relevance today.

Joseph Fucigna, a sculptor and installation artist, makes standard-issue plastic a colorist’s dream. He manipulates plastic fencing and cable ties—used at construction sites and in gardens—into sensuous fabric and forms.

In his freestanding work (as in Giddee Up) Fucigna creates dense abstract forms that are at once awkward and menacing.

In a recent installation Fucigna uses these materials in a different manner. The plastic netting in What Lies Beneath transforms and activates the environment it inhabits. The installation appears to be woven to the wall, creating a fragile beauty and intimacy.

Eva Lee’s works on paper are also very sensual, and many pieces are environmental in scale. Lee is best known for her large white drawings on black paper, which suggest both scientific systems and solar systems. How the background relates to her markings is of importance: large expanses of paper are left untouched, creating a perception of real depth in the work. To a similar end, Lee has been creating black-and-white short digital animations, exploring and pushing boundaries in renditions of the vastness of space and the intricacy of cells.

Lee has recently been successfully working on smaller-scale drawings in both black-and-white and color. These color works are infused with a sense of freedom and playfulness also found in the work of painter Melinda Hackett.

Hackett creates large, lyrical oil paintings, as well as gemlike miniature watercolor pieces. Hackett is a colorist who is also interested in shapes and glorifies the circle. Her paintings allow the eye to play, moving in and out of small, intimate spaces to vast expanses, all suggested on the same canvas. Her influences are many: textiles, aboriginal art, botany, patterning, and fashion.

Peter Hildebrand’s paintings show an extraordinary command over surface and detail. His images utilize miniscule lines that seem more likely to have come from the fine tip of a pen than from a brush. Some detailed works draw more on narrative and refer to several scientific systems. Hildebrand applies joint compound to wooden panels, then works over this ground with enamel paint, creating a smooth surface. It is important that Hildebrand paints on panels; this elevates the painting and transforms it into an “object.” Hildebrand also creates drawings and sculpture.

Another intensely meticulous painter is Laura Watt. Her op artwork is obsessive, explosive, elaborative, and full of depth. She has taken the ’70s psychedelic art to a higher plane. It is just as intense, but her palette is toned down and her work shows a more sensitive hand. One is mesmerized studying each segment of her paintings. Color is amazingly well worked in her densely packed pieces. Watt also creates very free drawings, many of which seem like studies in line, shape, and pattern.

Each of these artists exemplifies excellent craftsmanship, which allows one to forget the skill and focus on the art. They are free to use their chosen “art language” and explore, creating work that is both challenging and refreshing, and which demonstrates new approaches to abstraction through animation, installation, drawing, painting, and sculpture.

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