Movements in Time and Space by Gilbert Vicario

Nov 9, 2012

Michelle Prazak

Nov 9 – Dec 22, 2012

Michelle Prazak’s new series of paintings are superimposed histories of abstraction that wend their way across time and space. Geometric and constructive, their surface marks and illusory depth negate a prescribed origin, yet point to distinct historical markers that inscribe a complexity to their subject matter. Composed out of oil on canvas, her Movements are delicately rendered grid structures superimposed by ghostly stacks of flat, desaturated planes of color. In some cases the progressions of these planes bisect the canvas in a horizontal manner, while in others they progress in a vertical fashion. The title of the series suggests a typology of sorts, a musicality and rhythm that is activated by the individual components that make up the series. At once suggesting a series of frames that when seen together almost implies a subtle movement of proto-cinematic dimensions.

While these rhythmic patterns may seem more precisely aligned with the tradition of kinetic abstraction that impacted several generations of artists in Europe and South America this only scratches at the surface. However, while not trying to over determine their aesthetic origins one can argue of their connection to the constructive and concrete traditions embedded in Hélio Oiticica’s conception of the Metaesquema, “meta” (beyond vision) and “esquema” (structure), that manifested itself in simple gouaches on paper featuring subtly shifting geometric forms. Or perhaps the subtle, geometric compositions of the Russian-born painter Samson Flexor, who established the Atelier Abstração in São Paulo in 1951. From here other connections can be made, including but not limited to, Neo-Plasticism, Max Bill, the Hochschule für Gestaltung, School of Ulm, and European constructivism more generally. These, along with Kazimir Malevich the father of Suprematism, for example, begin to stack up or perhaps peel away like the metaphorical layers of an onion bulb.

Here metaphor and structure conjoin surprisingly well, both as a visual analogy to the onionskin layers and their architectonic structure, and in their capacity to unpack the history of their making. Prazak, on the other hand, succinctly points to two primary sources at once surprising and visually astute. “My main artistic influences,” she writes, “are Fra Angelico, for his very subtle, moving and precise use of color and mark and Joseph Albers, for his formal study in perception and form, his visual reversals, his investigation of the dynamics and relativity of color.” Both of these sources provide a solid foundation for what she considers to be an esoteric and spiritual practice. “I’m fascinated by the ability of space to possess an infinite extension in all directions and dimensions, by how our consciousness perceives the dimensionality of our world, and how space is a multi-dimensional mirror of our consciousness.” Here Prazak’s understanding of the ontological usefulness of abstraction is clear, in as much as it can claim to represent, almost in a virtual reality sense, our collective ability to perceive and visualize. Movements in Time and Space moves us far beyond a simple reduction of form to geometric designs and into a far more compelling place that reverberates with a poetic resonance distinctly marked by the here and now.

— Gilbert Vicario, Des Moines Art Center

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Michelle Prazak