Dianna Molzan’s paintings cast in relief the very materials of painting: paint, canvas, and wooden stretcher bars. Her vibrant, easel-sized paintings alter our expectations of what a painting can be. Often beginning with a rectangle, Molzan deliberately dismantles the three basic components of painting through a variety of experiments such as cutting, unraveling, twisting, and draping the canvas. A painting’s canvas may turn into a woven grid, or extend into space with sewn shapes. But despite the formal and material tactics Molzan deploys, her works still retain the appearance of painting. They remain, ultimately, paint on canvas wrapped around a stretcher.
Through this manipulation of material, Molzan’s work resides somewhere between painting and sculpture, and she looks at all of these objects with the same eye: “In museums, objects are nearly equalized; that is, there seems to be this process that brings culturally and historically varied works into the present moment for the viewer. For example, in a single afternoon, and under one roof, you can see a pre-Columbian clay pot, a panel of Victorian lace, an El Greco painting, and a Claes Oldenburg soft sculpture—so it does not seem that odd to me to kind of re-create that viewing experience within a group of paintings.” One can follow her roving eye through myriad visual influences. For example, the history of painting threads through her work in color choices, the application of paint, and shaped canvas. We might pick up references to Jackson Pollock and Richard Tuttle, to Henri Matisse and Joan Mitchell. Molzan also looks to art pottery, Italian 1980s Memphis design, Art Deco, and the Arts and Crafts movement—even the speckled surfaces of Formica.
For her first solo museum show in Boston, Molzan will create all new works. In keeping with her innovative approach, Molzan allows the architecture of the space in which her work will be seen to influence the paintings. Treating the gallery as a specific context is unusual for a painter, yet one can make comparisons to artists and designers who have created interiors and buildings as works of art. Consider Charles Rennie Mackintosh–designed interiors or Matisse’s Chapel in Vence, France. Like those who have created total environments, Molzan considers her exhibitions as locations where paintings can be read as an ensemble.
Molzan was born in 1972 in Tacoma, Washington, and lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2001) and her MFA from the University of Southern California (2009). Molzan has had solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2011), and her gallery, Overduin and Kite in Los Angeles (2009). Several of her works were included in the show All of this and nothing at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011).