Concepts of the medium are expanded, manipulated, recycled or otherwise transformed
Review by Mark Jenkins
The introductory text for “Looks Good on Paper,” a national juried exhibition at Pyramid Atlantic, helpfully appends a couple of prepositions to the show’s title: The pieces on display are “2-D and 3-D works on, in and of paper.” In fact, few of the 40 participants are content to put ink or paint on a flat surface, and several offer pieces that couldn’t possibly hang on a wall. Among the most tactile is Susan Casey’s “Jumble” — interlocking, bone-like loops of fibrous paper and cardboard, tempered with walnut ink and beeswax. Suspended on a metal scaffold, the artwork looks like something that was misplaced by an archaeological museum.
Other three-dimensional creations nod to, or wink at, more traditional uses of paper. Arden Cone patterns barn dust in a diamond-shaped grid on a paper feed bag; Nicole Salimbene weaves a tapestry of rolled, heavily black pages from Artforum magazine; and Nilou Kazemzadeh repeatedly spells out the word “expendable” in individual letters sewn from strips of recycled newspapers.
Many of the artists use paper to evoke other materials. Xuewu Zheng’s imposing “Zen Wall” is constructed from stacks of earth-toned, handmade-paper bricks, while Christine Medley’s more modestly scaled “Ta-kus” are paper tacos inscribed with haiku. A vast skirt and a voluminous headdress dominate Samantha Modder’s towering print-from-drawing of a larger-than-life Black woman. Nathaniel J. Bice’s small model of a San Francisco house is painted paper, but looks more like stucco. Isabella Whitfield furnishes a wooden frame with measuring cups and spoons made of pink and ivory paper where their real-life versions would be glass or metal. Reni Gower’s intricately hand-cut white-paper curtain draws from the decorative motifs of Amish quilts, Celtic knotwork and Islamic tiles, and curls away from the wall to yield complex shadows.
The natural world, whether scenic or under stress, is an apt if expected theme. Melissa Harshman’s “A Long Spring” strings prints of leaves, identical except for the shade of green, into a drapery so long that it sprawls from the wall to the floor. June Linowitz’s rendering of flooded houses, part of her “Planet in Peril” series, is bordered by hanging strips dyed in watery tints of blue and green.
Two of the contributors integrate nature into their work more concretely. Megan Singleton transformed plants from the Missouri Botanical Garden, which would otherwise have been composted, into paper for the pages of her artist’s book. Briana Miyoko Stanley converted ash and debris from a Santa Barbara wildfire and its aftermath into some of the pigments for her sculptural piece, whose earth- and fire-hued paper twists through a metal framework. Both visually and conceptually compelling, Stanley’s work is one of the show’s best examples of art that’s on, in and of paper.