Review of Anna Redwine’s and Laura Spong’s exhibitions

Subtle Transitions Evident in Recent Works by Redwine and Spong

BY MARY BENTZ GILKERSON
From the Free-Times.

The gestural mark is an element that is equally important to both Anna Redwine and Laura Spong. Both artists use mark-making to record the internal as well as external act of seeing. Solo exhibitions of their work, Anna Redwine: Frauenau and Laura Spong: Renovations, were recently on view as part of an if ART production at Gallery 80808.

Though the show closed March 2, Redwine and Spong are active local artists whose works will surely be seen again in the not-too-distant future.

Anna Redwine, Junkboat (2004)

Redwine’s current work is spare, monochromatic and almost Zen-like in its economy of line and use of the negative to define the positive. Frauenau Paintings gives viewers insight into the development of the current body. Back in 2004, Redwine spent a week in Frauenau, Germany, at the international art workshop Bild-Werk where she worked with Czech painter Pavel Rouchka. The experience turned out to be pivotal in the development of her work.
Bad weather forced her to work indoors on the only materials at hand, large sheets of gessoed paper and watercolor crayons.

The end result is a body of 26 works on paper that are informed by memory and experience. The quick, lively marks sometimes form a recognizable image, sometimes not. The limitations of time and materials led her to explore the voids and empty spaces in a drawing as critical elements in a composition.

Lily might have a descriptive title, but the piece is totally nonobjective. The composition is constructed of vertical bands of subtle color with a single band of intense red. Redwine uses color in the same sort of meditative, intentional way that she uses value in her current work. Cutting across these motionless bands is an organic stroke of white that activates the whole space.

In this body of work she has begun to distill the marks that she uses to describe her subjects down to their fundamentals. A simple horizontal band of black at the top turns the white area below into the depths of a pond in Frog. The figure of the frog is barely more representational than the white mark in Lily. The shape could just as easily be read as simple oval and line. Several dry-brushed lines indicate the powerful movement of the creature through the water. This piece in particular segue into her current work.

Laura Spong’s new work in Renovations has some subtle but substantial differences from her last show a year ago. There is a transition in the way that she structures the work, the color choices that she makes and the mark-making systems she uses.

At The Banquet The Skull Grins (2009), one of the earlier pieces in the exhibit, is a dark piece both literally and figuratively. Although deep, intense blues and umbers swirl across the picture plane, the bottom of the composition is much more contained than in most of her previous work. In fact, the shape is contained enough to be read as a table filled with objects. In the upper right corner is a grinning mouth full of teeth, the skull of the title. In the historical tradition of vanitas or still-life painting, she has created strong reminders of the ephemeral nature of life, of the ever present cycle of abundance and endings.

Spong says that events in her life affect her paintings and describes the impact of her house renovations as discombobulating. While the energy reflected in her work has certainly shifted, it seems anything but confused or disordered. By the beginning of this year, in pieces like Untitled, her palette changes to lighter, more intense colors. The marks in this painting are mostly centered on the form in the middle of the composition, as if the table from the previous piece lightened and rose. Warm, intense reds and yellows anchor the dark blue form against the surrounding light blues.

Frauenau Paintings and Renovations give viewers a chance to compare the work of the two artists and their use of the mark. But the two shows also provide a window into the ways artists transition and change, sometimes making subtle and incremental shifts, and other times making sudden leaps.

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