Formally, what the sixteen artists of microwave, eight have in common is the use of grids or grid-like structures in creating works of detailed complexity. The grid can be seen as a means of arranging sensory and abstract experiences into a system of information that the human mind can absorb and understand. In this light, a traditional painting can be defined as a locus of visual and tactile data contained on the surface of a tabular rectangle.
A ledger is a grid format that arranges information in rows and columns, but Jill Sylvia’s scrolls of vertical ledgers, which she has minutely cut by hand, record nothing but space. They are, however, as painstaking in their non-detail as any list, say for example William Powhida’s catalog of criticism hanging on the same wall. But Powhida’s lists contain more palpable information and demand a different kind of scrupulous attention. His bullet-point rows (Hope and Less, 2011), drawn in graphite, provide a trompe l’œil representation of a notepad outlining the pros and cons of the art world/market. He’s a critic as much as a player in it, drawing awareness to what indeed are the few good things and the very many shortcomings of that strange society of mostly non-artists (a fact he rightly points out).
Todd Norsten’s two Untitled oil paintings echo Powhida’s pairing of positive and negative. Though employing minimal color and touch, Norsten’s work inhabits the modest canvas with as much sensuous information as he can relay with only a few bands of blue or just a pale yellow “X” on a white ground.
Drawings by Lauren Seiden, Clément Bagot, and Gustavo Diaz use serial markmaking, creating luscious surfaces of lines on paper or mylar that mimic maps or computer systems. These drawings act more like obsessive doodles but there’s no denying their visual appeal.
Curtis Mann's large photographic work, Sieve, combines fractured rectangular views of a desert landscape, the expanse of sand below appearing like an abstract pattern of drips. A closer look reveals little vignettes within the drips, suggesting the narrative spaces of comic books.
Images: Todd Norsten, 2011, Untitled, Oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches; William Powhida, 2011, Hope (left) Less (right), detail, Graphite and watercolor on paper, Diptych, 11 x 14 inches each. Courtesy Josee Bienvenu Gallery.