Abstract composition is hard in 2010. Off-the-head, sourceless abstraction relying on internalized visual patterns and analytics cuts too close to expressionism for some, while sourced, referential abstraction can bring up a language problem related to the source’s content. Chicago artist Carrie Gundersdorf goes for the latter option, sourcing her abstract paintings and drawings from technologically removed nature. The process makes for good paintings, but it also maybe (maybe) risks her being mistaken for a space painter in the same way Melissa Oresky might be mistaken for a rock painter. Comes with the territory, I guess.
One important note is that while Gundersdorf’s work is based on photos of star paths generated by time-lapse night photography, spectral readings of distant bodies, or false-color analyses of space phenomena, those source images all require special cameras or machines which themselves visually abstract reality in their documentation. The paintings and drawings that result are therefor double abstractions, and even while resembling their sources are free to separate from them and look like straighter abstract paintings.
While the work that best fit that description was up at the Gundersdorf’s 12×12 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Gundersdorf was also showing a new and different body in The bottom of photos that look up at the sky and other observations., a small concurrent exhibition at Julius Caesar.
Here her source material became the work, with the artist’s collection of astronomical clippings arranged into loosely gridded, dry-stacked collages. The show’s title applied to a few of the pieces, in pieces where the horizon silhouettes against skies lit with splashing painterly auroras, but just as many of the pieces were reworked and re-sampled images. The sun was shown in repeated and rotated portraits, Saturns rings became beautiful tiles of shattered strokes, and pixelated shifts pulsed across the page. The collages’ relationship to Gundersdorf’s other work was clear, and anyone familiar with her paintings would easily recognize these as coming from her studio.
Though there isn’t any paint involved, the pieces all clearly shared the vocabulary of painting. What was missing was a sense of weight, material unity, and the physicality that is a constant in painting but is almost always absent from the delicate and dexterous medium of photo collage. On such light structures, the painterly gestures in The bottom of photos that look up at the sky and other observations. came off more slight and quietly than I was used to seeing. This relatively young body of work, while promising and beautiful at its peaks, seemed to demand more physicality to carry its formal content.
I give the show a:
Carrie Gundersdorf’s The bottom of photos that look up at the sky and other observations. ran from August 1st to August 29th, 2010 @ Julius Caesar, 3144 W Carroll Ave, 2G.