Susan Joseph: Hopeful Monsters
Opening Reception: Saturday, August 19, 6-9 pm
Closing Reception: Saturday, September 9, 4-6 pm
Exhibition Dates: August 19 – September 9, 2017
Groundspace Project is pleased to present Susan Joseph: Hopeful Monsters, a solo painting exhibition. Please join us for the opening reception on Saturday, August 19 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.
Susan Joseph | Hopeful Monsters
Susan Joseph’s new suite of paintings, “Hopeful Monsters,” is a gorgeous exploration of pattern, light, and form. Inspired in part by the biological phenomenon of plants and animals that make large evolutionary steps in one generation (called hopeful monsters), her new work revels in wild and prolific abundance. At the heart of much of this is the idea that massive iterations of basic forms give rise in turn to variations that lead to change and growth – and it is a story wonderfully told in these works.
Observations of “monster” flowers, that is, blossoms that have more than the usual number of petals or that are otherwise variant, date back more than two millennia to the ancient Greeks, and contemporary science continues to study aspects of the idea. Although the connotation of a monster (and mutation) is one of grotesque and frightening aspects, it’s also possible to see that such a “monster” is the literal embodiment of rapid change. The biological “monster” is thus a portent and harbinger of change, pointing to new forms that have yet to be. In these paintings, Joseph poetically invokes this idea, specifically alluding to the rapid growth and breakthroughs that can occur in a creative process.
The artist’s technique is elegant and powerful: a stencil based on a floral motif, unique to each painting, is used to overlay hundreds of layers of translucent oil color on a background tone, most often a pairing of white and blue. Patterns emerge from swirls of repeated shapes, and the paintings are shimmering masses of color, a visual field alive with implied motion. A strong counterpoint of faintly painted and densely stenciled areas coalesces into forms and shapes, even as edges and boundaries remain somewhat amorphous. The overall feeling is wild and unfettered, a sense of energy run rampant that seems on the verge of bursting past the bounds of the paintings.
In addition, there is a tangible as well as visual facet to the art. Layer upon layer of thinly applied paint accretes into a physical topography on each painting, ranging from a membranous clarity infused with white color, to the denser value and relatively thicker striations of more heavily loaded pigment. This paint-skin gives the paintings a heft and presence that promises and delivers more than just a retinal experience, presenting nuanced, even sensual surfaces.
However, though their source code is organic and floral, these artworks are not flowery, instead embodying a runaway fecundity that hints at an untrammeled growth of dense foliage, overrunning its constraints. Viewing the paintings is to be immersed in a lush garden of abstraction; certainly, the sheer profusion of forms and riot of activity in each painting feels natural – in the most fundamental meaning of that term – and conveys the unbounded exuberance of Spring.
In the multi-panel “Cat’s Paw,” a torrent of repeated blue shapes flow in wave-like rhythms across the surface, almost vibrating with an internal pulse. Individually translucent, the repetition of overlaid marks begins with whispered subtle passages of color at the periphery, then builds into orchestral swells of dense blue, like frozen animation. This dynamic tension creates a recession into groundless space, volume in both a visual and almost musical sense.
“Inflorescence,” a composition of two vertical forms bridged by a third, embraces a broader palette and taps into a different formal treatment. Rather than the more linear momentum of some of the other works, this painting has its own internal gravity, and a fountain of overlaid stenciled marks festoon the large forms with cascades of diaphanous color, which gradually fade into the dark blue background. The teeming energy of this piece is enriched by the gently modulated warmer hues throughout the main forms, and the slight relief of the monochromatic stencils at the edge of the panel.With the largest work in the show, “Blown Bloom,” Joseph brings this iterative approach to the support itself. Comprised of 45 separate paper sheets, the painting has its genesis on one sheet, and then extends onto additional sheets, suggesting an ongoing propagation of the form and pattern. The paper itself is not mounted, but attached to the wall at the corners; the slight curl in each sheet creates a wavering, undulating texture across the face of the composite painting, adding to the sense of motion and movement.Vibrating with a dizzy rush of form, pattern, and color, Susan Joseph’s new work sparkles as it melds organic multiplicity and bloom with visual and tactile grace.
Catching A ‘Hopeful Monster’: Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella Bursa-Pastoris) As A Model System To Study The Evolution Of Flower Development
Received 28 June 2006; Accepted 8 August 2006 Journal of Experimental Botany
The Monster Is Back, and It’s HopefulBY OLIVIA JUDSON | JANUARY 22, 2008 6:22 PM | The New York Times
Evolution: Revenge of the hopeful monsterBy Tanguy Chouard February 17, 2010 Nature News
Groundspace Project is an artist-run alternative space located just east of the 4th Street bridge in downtown Los Angeles.
Exhibition hours are Friday and Saturday, 1-6 pm.
1427 E. 4th St. #4
Los Angeles, CA 90033