criticismExhibitions
Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Helen Miranda Wilson: A New Kind of Space, Carved Out for the Mind to Explore


Helen Miranda Wilson: Kuba Cuneiform Quilts at Lori Bookstein Fine Art

November 13, 2014 to December 20, 2014
138 Tenth Avenue (between 18th and 19th streets)
New York City, 212 750 0949

Helen Miranda Wilson, Mercato, 2012. Oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Lori Bookstein Fine Art.

Helen Miranda Wilson, Mercato, 2012. Oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Lori Bookstein Fine Art.

The title of Helen Miranda Wilson’s recent project room exhibition of eight small paintings at Lori Bookstein, “Kuba Cuneiform Quilts” is, like the works themselves, factual, neat, and informational. Until, that is, one spends a bit of time contemplating the works and their titles.

An initial view of the paintings reflects the noted sources — quilts, Kuba culture, cuneiform script — and yet very quickly an imaginative place between language and object is evoked. The surface of each panel has been prepared to a smooth and pristine pale-toned ground upon which the artists has skillfully painted hundreds of shapes often nestling and linking into each other. The scale — none of the works are much larger than a book cover — invites one to step in and explore a universe of multiple unique families of colored triangles and squares arranged within a small and shallow space. At first glance this can read as a kind of visual braille, but then, Wilson’s titles and colors, suggestive of particularities of atmosphere and environment, evoke many possible readings.

Titles like Lexicon, Snow, Old Friend, 5 O’clock, Light Garden, Little Dusky Darling and Mercato allude to familiar, quotidian things and register well with the color sensations and qualities of the painting they belong to. Snow, for example, employs a loose grid more than any of the others and reminds this viewer of an urban snowstorm where yellow lights in frigid inky darkness of night are softened by a veil of snow. Mercato’s colors link easily to flowers, fruits and even synthetic hues of mass-produced goods. These sink into a pale terra cotta ground in a space that appears shallower than the others bringing to mind pottery and crafts rather than the atmosphere or the place of a market. Teetering between description and statement, Treasure Land is both a proper name and an imperative, a place to go to and a plea. Light Garden as well, could be interpreted as light in a garden, a garden made of lights, or even a local name for Provincetown at night.

Helen Miranda Wilson, Treasure Land, 2012. Oil on panel, 12 x 9 inches. Courtesy of Lori Bookstein Fine Art.

Helen Miranda Wilson, Treasure Land, 2012. Oil on panel, 12 x 9 inches. Courtesy of Lori Bookstein Fine Art.

What is so remarkable about these works is how they are simultaneously unassuming and completely dense. And it is uncanny that such a broad range of experiences is conjured with the reduced language of triangles and squares.

With deliberate clustering of similar-hued groups of her triangles and squares the artist suggests movements and counter-movements as close valued hue-sets placed adjacent to each other vibrate and subtle shifts in value create very slow ripple effects. One merely needs to stop, step in and look. Wilson’s achievement is in presenting us — the viewers — with a new kind of space, one that despite the modest size of these images continually expands, both perceptually and referentially. This surely is the experience viewers want most: to be brought to a new space carved out specifically for the mind to explore.

Helen Miranda Wilson, Snow, 2012. Oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches. Courtesy of Lori Bookstein Fine Art.

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