Monday, July 26, 2010

J.T. Kirkland: "White: Part 2"

Last week, the second half of J.T. Kirkland's White exhibition opened at Christopher West Presents. The Virginia-based artist has produced a spectacular ending to an already strong beginning with the addition of color to his repertoire. "I strive to find clarity and resolution in line, color, and form, while challenging viewers' perceptions of surface and space through simple, precise gestures on wood," Kirkland states, and he has certainly achieved his objective here. The 24 works exhibited, titled Subspace_001 - Subspace_024, are all acrylic and polyacrylic on maple plywood and sized 12x12x1. They conjure Ellsworth Kelly's Panel series due to their shape, scale, monochromatic opacity, and choice of color, but the fact that they are painted on plywood makes them seem more painterly than Kelly's aforementioned works. This in turn brings some of Barnett Newman's genre-busting experiments to mind; it is difficult to say whether Kirkland's Subspace series is painting or sculpture. True to Newman, it seems most accurate and least confining to simply classify them as objects rather than paintings or sculptures.
This objectivity (in the sense of having the status of an object) is furthered by the way that the works in Subspace break the proverbial frame. The painted portions of the works do not stop in the conventional space of the picture plane but spill over onto the sides of the plywood. This results in a series of juxtapositions; the Subspace series seems at once to embody motion and stillness as well as flatness and space. Careful viewing of these works and looking at them from different angles is rewarding. It is also interesting to note the colors Kirkland selected; each piece only has one color besides the white pinstripes that carried over from the first half of the exhibition. The range includes white, black, most of the basic colors, and also some surprising choices such as pastels. All in all, there are some unexpected choices thrown in the mix and the total palate in addition to the arrangement of the works is quite satisfying.

The maple plywood Kirkland chose is certainly a good example of the artist's keen appreciation for the natural beauty of wood. The multiplicity of works in White: Part 2, all of the same size and media, have the added value of showcasing the various patterns that naturally appear in maple wood. The sharp lines and beautifully opaque colors painted onto the wood contrast nicely with the unique patterns of the plywood in each piece.

Kirkland is an artist who has an admirable clarity of vision and purpose in his recent work, and White has been a great opportunity for him to explore pursue that vision. It will be exciting to track his progress in the future, and if White is any indication it will be nothing but bright.

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