Mathematicians define “interpolation” as a means of constructing new data points within the range of existing data points. The Ringling defines it as an artistic conversation. In ‘Interpolations’, his latest exhibition of modern and contemporary works, each artwork offers a commentary (and changes your point of view) on all the other artworks. The pieces are drawn from two collections; one belongs to The Ringling, the other to Keith D. and Linda L. Monda. (The Mondas have promised to donate the pieces from this exhibit to the museum.)
You will see some representative images, including prints from Goya’s Disaster of War series (1810-1820). But most of the pieces are abstractions. Most are the opposite of abstract expressionism. These images did not spring from an artist’s identity. They stemmed from some artists’ obsessive attention to detail. They are as meticulously constructed as a Byzantine mosaic.
“Jablonow I” (1971) by Frank Stella is a mixed media assemblage composed of acrylic, felt, canvas and cardboard on wood. This is part of Stella’s Polish Village series mourning the Nazi destruction of wooden synagogues across Europe – in this case a magnificent structure in Jablonow, Poland. Stella echoes the angular geometry of the obliterated synagogue with the interlocking forms of its assembly. The image is obviously an abstraction, not a literal model. Stella’s series does not attempt to recreate what has been lost. The destruction of architecture means the destruction of Jewish culture. Stella’s abstraction distills the form of the real thing and never pretends to be a substitute.
“Infinity of Dots” (1993) by Yayoi Kusama is a four-panel acrylic painting. The image lives up to the title. It looks like a random assortment of green ping pong balls floating in a sea of Indian ink. There is no pattern, though your mind insists on one. (Psychologists call this “pareidolia.” This is why people see constellations and faces in clouds.) The effect here is truly trippy. Kusama’s work packs a psychedelic punch, and it’s no wonder. His entire artistic career stems from a hallucinatory experience. Blake saw eternity in a grain of sand; Kusama saw infinity in an array of dots. This mesmerizing image is one of his many attempts to capture this glimpse of eternity in his art.
“Untitled” (2006) by Teo González is another dot matrix. Here, the effect is more organic than cosmic. This is a four panel acrylic painting on canvas, mounted on a board. The artist filled it with rows of dense blue dots. There is a loose grid system, but the drips of paint wandered as the artist dropped them from right to left. Instead of a tight Cartesian grid, the result is a series of wavy lines. Like the skin of a dark blue iguana seen in extreme close-up.
“Untitled” (1990) by Richard Serra is a diptych, produced using screen printing and a paint stick. The image has the heavy but energetic feel of the artist’s sculpture. At first glance, it looks like two huge black squares. But the squares are askew, as if they had just crashed into each other. The two distorted shapes have the thick, encrusted texture of two-lane asphalt. (It’s tar and ink, actually.) The piece has an eerie, impersonal anonymity – as if the shapes extruded in a natural process and were not the creation of human hands.
Human life is a matter of codes. There are honor codes, software codes, and cultural baggage codes imprinted on our minds in kindergarten. For her first solo exhibition, Canadian artist Natasha Mazurka breaks the code of motherhood. She’s a new mother, and that’s obviously on her mind.
Mazurka talks about this subject in a mish-mash of media, including paintings and relief images, punched into parchment. There is also a site-specific installation, constructed with layers of colored vinyl. These pieces incorporate old and new codes, including architecture, calculus, and Morse code. (The artist also nods to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian parable of patriarchal oppression.)
It’s a matter of pattern recognition, but it’s delayed recognition. Mazurka encrypts her message with a devious mind. It takes a while to gestate in your mind’s eye.
“Fractal Feeders” first looks like a pretty Spirograph pattern – white dots and circular shapes on a field of blue. But the artist plays with the shape of a breast pump. Beyond beauty, you will see the imposition of the mechanical over the natural.
“Ladies’ Night” plays with the notion of a circle of women hitting the road for a night on the town. Again, it’s pretty on the surface: a pink and bronze party pattern. But the forms have rigid predictability. Despite the lure of freedom, “Ladies’ Night” follows a strict code.
Mazurka’s art questions the cultural codes defining motherhood. It is an ideal complementary exhibition for “Interpolations”. And the perfect ending (or beginning) of artistic conversation.
The Ringling Exhibitions
“Interpolations” is on display in the Searing Wing until September 8 and “Order Systems,” in the Monda Gallery, is on display until September 29 at The Ringling, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota; 359-5700; ringling.org
• Gallery Walk & Talk: April 25, 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Curators Christopher Jones and Ola Wlusek share their thoughts on “tweens.” (Included with admission.)
• Point of view conference: Natasha Mazurka. 18 May, 10.30 a.m., Historic Asolo Theatre. The artist will discuss his practice and offer insight into his work in his solo exhibition. $10; $5 for members and students.