Michelle Prazak: "Movements in Time and Space" at THE MISSION

Jan 1, 2013

It’s astonishing to discover that the hard-edged, mathematical forms and grids of Michelle Prazak’s paintings are hand-painted; looking carefully, a knowing viewer can see that there are indeed none of the telltale glops and ridges of a taped line, and the tracks of the brush’s bristles barely visible. In her first US solo exhibition, “Movements in Time and Space,” the Peruvian artist uses her steady hand and the fixed medium of painting to explore the impracticable subjects of motion and expanding space. Like a lengthy musical score, Prazak’s paintings are numbered in movements, each with a different tempo. Her forms, the transparent rhombi occupying every piece, seemingly rise and fall, or run horizontally across the picture planes with the illusion of differing speeds. As in Movement #4, some encapsulate a full progression of movement within the rectangles of the canvases, while others suggest a movement from canvas to canvas, like Movement #5. Only Movement #1 and Movement #2 are single canvases; the others are multiple panels and are stronger because of it. In Movement #7, eight 8-inch square canvases capture a rhythmic series of fragments, like the pages of a flipbook.

Though the works allude to forces beyond the two-dimensional, Prazak’s paintings are resolutely that: paintings. Amongst the exactness of the lines and edges, a viewer can decipher a distinct patina, most visible where the canvas strains against the stretcher support. The wear comes as a result of Prazak covering each canvas with a thick layer of dark paint at the start, which she then vigorously wipes off. This process concedes to the canvases’ natural inconsistencies, leaving the slightest variations in tone of the paintings’ grounds that add an aura of space behind the highly controlled forms. Also, accentuated through this tactual process is the material grid of the canvases’ warp and weft, paralleling the mathematical frameworks of the paintings’ illusionary subject matter while also reinforcing the earthiness and objectness of the medium.