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

Jul 25, 2013

Abstraction and expression reign at Grizzly Grizzly

Posted by CSchwartz

The Grizzly Grizzly show “Love's Industrial Park” is by any measure a study in sensuousness. Riddled with all manner of painted shapes, bulbous forms, bright colors and enticing textures, New York artists Laura Frantz, Clare Grill, Linnea Paskow and Elisa Soliven, along Philadelphia painter Sarah Gamble, fill the space of this Knight Arts grantee with objects and materials steeped in a style of expression.

Sarah Gamble, "Untitled."

Sarah Gamble makes what amounts to the only deviations, no matter how slight, from the overwhelmingly non-objective theme of the exhibit. In a couple of her paintings, she includes one or more pairs of eyes, and even a scant silhouette in a sort of subtly defiant gesture. All of her works in the show are untitled, so a description is certainly necessary. Hanging just two spots inside the doorway, a 14×18 inch canvas hangs with an interior red rectangular mimicking its shape. It is surrounded by a whitish border which looks not unlike the gallery walls. Inside the red field, not-quite-paisley geometric patterns trickle across its surface and slide into the distance, giving the illusion of depth. A shadowy black figure resides near the bottom, and more blatantly, a pair of wide open eyes unblinkingly looks forward. Ethereal wings inexplicably spread from the corners of the eyes and, as in Nietzsche's famous quotation, the abyss proceeds to stare back.

Elisa Soliven, "Untitled." Elisa Soliven, "Untitled."

Artist Elisa Soliven anchors the show in three-dimensional space with as many sculptures as dimensions. Of these three forms, perhaps the most alluring happens to also be untitled (solidifying the artists' emphasis on expression over content). Atop a square column of pegboard, a bright, neon chunk of plaster rests, with a single round opening inviting a look inside. Although at first glance the object appears geological (psychedelic colors notwithstanding), the tiny crevice also reveals a couple of tiny, delicate feathers. As much bird's nest as cavern, the sculpture acknowledges the similarities between the inorganic formations of rocks and the structures built by living creatures.

Clare Grill, "Husks." Clare Grill, "Husks."

Clare Grill focuses on more discreet renderings such as in her painting “Husks.” On a lightly mottled gray background, dark, claw-like curves slice across the surface plane. There is some degree of anxiety in this image, and these slash marks are as intriguing as they are ghastly. Linnea Paskow holds up the center between colorful meandering and eerie vision with three tiny oil paintings. In particular, “Faith” stands out as a heavily saturated form that appears to be crashing and/or burning, disintegrating from sharp green hues to deep reds as it falls.

Linnea Paskow, "Faith." Linnea Paskow, "Faith."

Lastly, Laura Frantz forgoes form and context just about completely. While “Northwest Passage” more resembles a plush pillow than an arctic sea route, Frantz's attention to texturing could be construed as the mingling of Canadian islands form an aerial perspective. Mostly it just appears like a surface of paint dabbed into a vague horizon line and fabric-like ripples, which make the title seem all the more distant from the product.

Laura Frantz, "Northwest Passage." Laura Frantz, "Northwest Passage."

All five artists at Grizzly Grizzly present a vexing body of work which is more felt than understood, and do well to embrace their unique takes on expression. Whether perceived through colorful and wide-eyed mysticism or drab, distressed outlines, “Love's Industrial Park” is unabashedly abstract. The show will be on display through July 27.

Grizzly Grizzly is located at 319 North 11th St. (on the second floor), Philadelphia;;

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