In some paintings, medium and meaning have a symbiotic relationship, form and content are intertwined. The canvas or panel resists being a window to elsewhere, and its surface asserts itself as primary. Surface-oriented paintings and those that rely on deliberately crafted skins can be traced back to the web-like drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, the poured and stained canvases of Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler, the restrained flatness of Ellsworth Kelly, the slick surfboard-inspired works of SoCal’s Finish Fetish artists and the material build-ups of Jay DeFeo. Contemporary artists like James Hayward and Marcus Linnenbrink emphasize the tactile and dimensional qualities of the surface, blurring the line between painting and sculpture.
The four artists featured in Surface Tension explore the possibilities and effects of a painting’s physical presence. David Allan Peters carves into sedimentary layers of brightly colored acrylic, creating sculptural paintings with craters and crevices in otherwise smooth black or white surfaces. In small freestanding sculptures constructed of chunks of dried paint layers, he flips the relationship between 2D and 3D. Christopher Martin experiments with poured, splashed and brushed-on acrylic paint on the reverse sides of glassy acrylic panels. Determined in large part by the physical properties of the materials, resulting compositions appear to be dynamic flows or frenetic spatters caught in stop-motion.
Deneane Niebergall’s poured acrylic panels also imply frozen flows, but of a material more viscous, like lava, pancake batter or silly sand. The fancifully colored idiosyncratic forms recall Dr. Seuss or enticing confections. In her most recent work, Jen Garrido explores the parameters of flatness. Complex, non-objective silhouetted shapes at once float above, emerge from and interlock with the surrounding whiteness. With prolonged viewing, a shape that first appears as thin and graphic as a shadow can optically protrude into dimensional form, like a cutout in a pop-up book, and it can just as suddenly flatten out again.