Folk-rocker Bob Dylan’s lyrics “All I’ve got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth” reflect the spirit and pared-down approach to art-making embraced by New York City-based Joanne Freeman. In Three Chords, Freeman exhibits a new series of oil paintings that pay homage to the formalist abstraction of Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, and also offer a distinct contrast to the reductive nature and purity inherent in early modernist ideals. Curving and looping bands of cool red, Mediterranean blue and vivid yellow intersect and overlap in a vibratory dance. Freeman’s compositions are simple and direct. The forms that inhabit these canvases (several of which are elegantly shaped) create dynamic interactions—the hard-edged thickened lines quiver, rotate, stretch and sag. Lines flatten as if they have been pulled taut and ground the composition as they hug the edge of the picture plane.
Freeman describes her process as “a controlled approach to mark making” and often employs sign maker’s tape to mask out various areas before applying successive layers of oil. While the artist’s lines appear to be whimsical gestures they are in fact hard-edged creations. Interiors of the curvy and slumped lines often reveal thin transparent passages of paint, the colors burnished and blotted to create varied effects.
Joanne Freeman received a B.S. in Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin and a M.A. in Studio Art from New York University. Her works have been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions including Lohin Geduld Gallery, NYC; Elizabeth Harris Gallery, NYC; Marc Jancou Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland; The Painting Center, NYC; and the Queens Museum.
George Kinghorn, Director and Curator, University of Maine Museum of Art
The Painiting Center
547 W. 27th Street
New York, NY.
January 29 thru Feb 23, 2013
Wit is defined as a natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humor. Abstract language is not immediately associated with humor, as pictorial and narrative language can seem more accessible. Why certain shapes and colors appear humorous can depend on context, cultural associations or individual experience. But some of the reasoning behind wit is not tangible, or explainable, some things are just inherently funny.
Analyzing wit in reference to abstract art and language is a sure way to diffuse its potency since its delivery feeds on the novel and unexpected. Disruption of the status quo helps to define humor. The modernist aesthetics surrounding form, balance and proportion established in the early twentieth century, still provide a common language and reference point from which to view abstract art. This shared visual language has become part of our collective consciousness and dictates our expectations. By manipulating our preconceived standards and altering our assumptions, abstract art can surprise, reinvent and communicate wit.
The conversation between artist and viewer is enhanced by qualities of recognition and discovery. A small gesture like a nod or wink can provide a link with the mindset of the artist and set the tone of the conversation. It is a mistake to polarize humor and intellect since they work best in unison. Wit suggests qualities of the human spirit in an overly synchronized world, be it the slip, the twist, the pratfall, it's the imperfection that identifies the personality.
The artists selected for this show share a sense of humanity and amusement that resonates in their work. You could call it a "twinkle in the eye" or a "joy" that permeates through what they do. I think of it as an inner wit that can't be kept down, as long as someone is willing to play.
Joanne Freeman 2013