James Westwater at Klaudia Marr

James Westwater at Klaudia Marr

Sarah S. King

This intriguing show by Brazilian-born, Santa Fe-based artist James Westwater consisted of found objects, collages, assemblages, paintings and drawings–all from 2004. In these works the artist continues to use Pop representation and abstract form to explore the relationship between nature and culture, the structure of psychological predicaments and questions of artistic authorship–preoccupations that have played out in his work over the past 20 years.

The title of the show–“Pinklings”–refers to the color that predominated. Examples include bubble-gum-hued acrylic paint poured over a cell phone, monochromes with thick gooey coats of fleshy pink, as well as found prints and paintings to which small elliptical shapes of pink paint had been added. Aside from the shared color, these seemingly disparate works are strangely unified by a constant yet evolving visual vocabulary of oval shapes that have become the artist’s idiosyncratic logo. These repeated forms are culled from his earlier “pill” or “bubble” series in which three fat ellipses of diminishing size abut horizontally, suggesting a reclining snowman. Painted or cut out from various materials, these forms are featured on their own, sometimes cropped, in abstract compositions or superimposed on appropriated imagery. For instance, Farm a print of a red-roofed barn surrounded by trees under billowing clouds, pasted above a wide rectangular bar of solid pink paint–features a multicolored grid of rubber and sparkled-felt ellipses affixed to its surface. In this and similar works juxtaposing geometric shapes and seascapes or wilderness landscapes, unruly natural systems are submitted to the artificial order of repeated form.

The artist’s latest series, based on illustrations of lifesaving techniques from a Red Cross manual, takes a darker, more introspective turn and a different stylistic approach. Devoid of Westwater’s familiar signifiers and rendered with vigorous brushwork, these large-scale gestural works are both lyrical and ambiguous. Exercise #1 (The Block), acrylic and charcoal on linen, depicts two male figures in half shadow, out lined with streaks of light against a pink-mauve and gray background. From a distance, the subjects resemble performers cavorting in a dance under stage lights. Closer up, the picture reveals a crouched man in swimming trunks pushing away a fully clothed person leaping toward him with outstretched arms in an anguished attempt to grasp him. The scene illustrates a situation in which the would-be rescuer must pry himself away from a drowning victim in order to save his life. Engaging metaphors for psychological struggles as well as plays on visual perceptions, these works subtly exploit the tension between impulse and reason at the core of Westwater’s work.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Brant Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group