The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

When you first walk through the doors of Dimensions Variable for the latest show, "Series 5 —Marcos Valella," white overwhelms you. The walls and the floor are whitewashed, and the seven evenly spaced and hung paintings are splattered with white paint.

Actually, they looked scrubbed with white paint, from the center out. And indeed, artist Valella took newspaper, used as his brush here, to rub down the colored canvases with white. The result is remarkable, almost blinding at first.

With the show starting two weeks prior to this visit, the floor now reveals all the scruffs and darkened marks of the shoes that crossed it since its initial bright coat. And since Dimensions is really a converted storefront, windows allow lots of light to reveal these imperfections all over the floor.

The eyes then have a hard time adjusting to the surrounding abstract images on the walls. At first glance, they can appear as exploding universes — or conversely, imploding ones. There's a swirling anger to the pieces and the process of scrubbing — negating an image as much as creating one. Something is unresolved, which is unsettling. As the artist describes it:

"One approaches the work aesthetically, immediately searching for a sense of resolution and an evolving discourse, but comes up short. This realization calls into question the very issues of making. The work functions independently of conventional rubrics by not contemplating a resolution with the picture plane."

In fact, one doesn't really focus on the individual paintings, as the entire thing works much more powerfully as an installation. The play on the "white cube," and the concept of "whitewashing" is part of the whole. The exhibit is presented classically, with paintings hung in a traditional way, as in a traditional gallery. But, in the end, structure breaks down. And strange things pop up. It's at once beautiful and off-balance, or, as the artist says, without real resolution.

In aesthetic style this is a departure from previous installations at Dimensions Variable, showing the diversity of what it is presenting. In fact, Dimensions is one of the Knight Art Challenge finalists this year. The artists who currently run it — Adler Guerrier, Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly — want to continue to show site-specific works from here, and across the nation, six times a year, as well as add a yearly publication highlighting that work. What's good about Dimensions is that the projects don't feel as though they were thrown against the wall, just to see what happens. With only a half dozen shows a year, the artists can think about the process and the outcome, while remaining within an experimental mode.


"Series 5 -- Marcos Valella" through June 25 at Dimensions Variable, 171 N.E. 38th St., Design District; 305-607-5527;


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