Novemeber 10 - December 18, 2020
Novemeber 10 - December 18, 2020
Continuing her investigation of space in and around the picture plane, Clytie Alexander moves from her previous exhibitions of paper collages (2017) and perforated aluminum Diaphans (2009) to probe the same issues on canvas. Alexander states, “It’s about territories, worlds within worlds, suggested by a thin mark or a drawn line on canvas.” As the painted line involves the space around the canvas itself, the natural outcome is to see the work in series. Alexander embraces this inclination and has arranged the work in series that range from 2 and 9 canvases, where each canvas responds to the next, as well as the space it inhabits.
Throughout this Viewing Room are excerpts from an interview with Jim Long, a fellow artist and longtime friend of Alexander's. In the interview, the pair discusses the works on view here as well as Alexander's many inspirations and motivations.
Clytie Alexander: Let’s start with lines and how making lines describes space - any kind of line, any kind of mark.
Jim Long: Are you continuing to discover lines and shapes that emerge in the patterned space generated by the ‘Diaphans’?
CA: Well, by now they’ve become self-generating. The Diaphans were a bridge into mark making. That process was more thinking about boundaries and mark making: how the mark (pause) it’s about describing space that is suggestive (pause) in which language and drawing seem to be inter-related.
JL: Do you mean as in calligraphy, divination or different systems of communication?
CA: My point is, it’s not exactly about calligraphy. It’s about territories and worlds within worlds suggested by thin marks on a piece of paper. The looking at abstraction, for a lot of people, is they can’t find a word for what it is - or words - so therefore it must mean that there’s nothing there or the unknowable... which is uncomfortable.
JL: But are you consciously trying to create a language, in the way that, for instance, Michaux was?
CA: No, I’m not. At some point, though, I am using lines to set up a situation. And I do stop thinking about it. If a line looks good, it looks good and I leave it. Some are more interesting to look at than others. Also, in the ‘Loop’ series color plays a big part—the color orange signifies caution.
JL: It also holds space pretty well.
CA: For a long time I didn’t like the color orange. And so I thought I’d take a close look and find out what was irritating me. In our present day culture orange signifies 'Don’t go here, it’s dangerous'.... It is Interesting to me because I like to explore surfaces, edges and boundaries. For similar reasons, I’m also fascinated by the color red, earth red, reddish brown, the color of dried blood….
JL: There’s something within us that’s willing to release our grip on the natural world and respond to abstract imagery.
CA: Signs, symbols and colors. Those do resonate with human experience. What ever you draw, you’re delineating space. If I draw a line between you and me I’m delineating your space and my space.
JL: And demonstrating the communicative force of an essentially abstract gesture.
JL: Do you pay attention to Chinese calligraphy?
CA: Yes, and I look at other writing systems: Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Arabic script. I like to look at it. It looks like it represents ideas, but I don’t know which ideas? So, I just look at it for what it looks like, just for the pleasure - but I don’t look at it because I aspire to do it.
JL: Your work leaves similar room for the viewer.
CA: It’s the taking of a number of complex ideas and turning them into some kind of mark - and I hope I can infuse it with my history or that I can set up a situation where others infuse it with their own history. What I’m trying to do is leave room for a viewer to experience the work in a way that doesn’t tell you everything. In other words, whatever experience you bring to the work then becomes part of the work.
JL: The 'Diaphans' transformed physical area, manipulating density, size, color and weight. Installed, they re-figured the architecture. With the 'Loop' drawings you manipulate weight, density and figuration of a different space: a linear band of fluid color traverses a standard 35 X 24 in. sheet of translucent glassine paper. The choice of glassine suggests tracing. The width of the line is constant, non-hierarchical, describing only itself, but it has a semi-spontaneous presence. It's an activity of tracking rather than delineating. This line is a container of luminous color, a substantial body in a specific configuration. The boldness of the flat line leads the eye in every direction without suggesting meaning, until the eye finally realizes it is experiencing an event; an event as you have said "with a beginning and an end". My sense is of a story without 'literary' content.
Left to its own devices, any line that issues from the hand of Clytie Alexander flows with mellifluous, effortless inevitability. But the artist pairs a lyrical tendency with a penchant for the unpredictable.
~David Cohen, ArtCritical
In 2019, Alexander was invited to collaborate with sculptor Raoul Hague on an exhibition at ‘T’ Space in Rhinebeck, NY. The result was a wonderful dialogue between Alexander’s paintings, Hague’s sculptures, the architecture of the gallery and the landscape of the Hudson Valley. ‘T’ Space is an arts organization that was founded by the Steven Myron Holl Foundation in 2010. It has grown to become a vital center for the arts, nature and humanism in its region of the Hudson Valley.
Born in Lawrence, Kansas, Clytie Alexander was educated in Quebec and Bangladesh. She studied art at UCLA and was a member of the influential Southern California artist’s community in the 60 and 70s. She is the recipient of awards and grants including: the American Academy of Arts and Letters Hassan, Speicher, Bett and Symonds Art Purchase Award 2013, 2007 and 2003; the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant 2005; the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant 1993 and 2001; and the Elizabeth Foundation Studio Program Award 1998-2020.
Her work resides in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; Weatherspoon Art Museum Greensboro, NC; Getty Research Institute Library, Los Angeles, CA; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM; Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; and the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL; Fondo Francesco Moschini, A.A.M. Architettura Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy; and Sarabhai Family Foundation, Ahmedabad Gujarat, among others. In 2019, Alexander had an exhibition at Steven Holl’s project space, T Space, in Rhinebeck, NY. Alexander works and lives in Santa Fe, NM.