I n painting after painting in Shilo Ratner’s soon-ending solo exhibition at DaSilva Gallery, big blocks of color meet contrasting angles and lines and bands. Together, they suggest a grand experiment in which the artist seems to be working out a pattern, using shapes and colors to reach a deeper sense of order.
There’s repetition in the obtuse angles, knife-edged lines and flat
fields. But each time, the treatment is a little bit different, like
multiple attempts at a tangram puzzle in which you try first one
solution, then another. Does the large block belong at the top of the
canvas, compressing the thinner lines below? Does it belong at the
bottom, with an accumulation of thinner lines above? Or should it,
perhaps, float in the center or even higher?
In Looking Up at the Open Sky, a “horizon” line tips ever so
slightly, to vertiginous effect. Other lines compensate by tipping in
the opposite direction, but it’s hard to find the level. With a large,
pale blue block of color dominating the top of the canvas, the
experience of looking up at the sky and losing touch with the ground is
Shifting Waters shifts the experiment with a dominating dark
wall that slices diagonally through the canvas in shades of brown and
green striped with red. Like the horizon in Open Sky, this
partition is unsettling; each of its bands of color locates the wall’s
corner in a different place. A segmented gray shape follows it like a
sidewalk. In the background, cheerful blues peek through.
Only two of the show’s 16 paintings break the pattern to include a
portion of a circle, partially obscured by horizontal lines, which calls
to mind a rising or setting sun. Seeing these pieces last might make
the circles an element of surprise, but one is displayed in the front
window and the other just inside the door. Their placement seems to
instruct us to think of the more squared geometric images that follow as
doing the same: overlapping and obscuring one another, just as the
circle is obscured by the lines that hide its completion.
Sure enough, on closer examination, Ratner’s paintings are more
layered and subtle than they first appear. Return for a second look and
then a third; even more layers emerge. It’s as if the closer you step to
these works, the farther in they draw you. For example, once you notice
them, subtle banded and triangular ghosts behind an ivory block of
color in Temple of the Moon give the unexpected effect of sunlight casting a quiet shadow.
Ratner sees her artwork as a form of meditation. Her painting process
begins each day with Japa meditation, which uses sound repetition in
the form of mantras that put her in a positive frame of mind to approach
the canvas intuitively. “I just start with a shape,” she says. She
draws on her formal art education—a knowledge of color and brush
technique, for example—but mostly, she says, the paintings “sort of just
evolve on their own. They have their own voice, and I try to just bring
it out on the canvas.”
The colors she chooses—tiger orange, sapphire blue, sunny
yellow—excite the eye, and yet the way her shapes hug tight and her
lines stretch straight conveys a sense of stability. Even when she’s
tipping us off balance, the tilt feels more playful than precarious.
The net positive effect is intentional, Ratner says. She names some of the things that are tilting our global society today—climate change, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia. “I try to bring beauty into the world,” she says. “[I’m] not saying that I’m not aware of everything that’s happening, but I’m trying to put something out there that doesn’t have that angst, so I when I’m creating the work, I want to create these calm visions, kind of this optimistic view of the world I see in the chaotic times we’re living in.”
Getting ready to exhibit my work in two weeks at Yale West Campus on November 2 & 3. Come by and say hi.
Yale West Campus hosts a record-breaking 230+ artists, collectives, art departments and more, plus nine special commissions. Pick up a schedule at the entrance to Building 410 to find locations for each artist, plus information about special events.
Last week, I received a letter of invitation to exhibit at the Locust Grove Historic Estate and Museum. I usually don’t check my email while working in the studio and tend check it at the end of the day. However, last week I was taking a water break and decided to just check my phone and the email was in my inbox. Feeling so much appreciation for my craft. This solo exhibition will be in the Transverse Gallery, Exhibition Date: 27 April – 26 July
Text from the Locust Grove Website:
The main house at Locust Grove is a villa in the Italianate style designed in 1850 for artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse by architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Fifty years later the house was renovated and expanded for new owners William and Martha Young. Their daughter, Annette Innis Young, eventually created the not-for-profit educational foundation that preserves the estate as a museum today.
Morse had very clear ideas about what he wanted in what was to be his summer home (he and his family spent winters in New York City, in a townhouse on 22nd Street near Fifth Avenue). For inspiration, Morse recalled the elegant villas that he had visited years earlier in the Italian countryside and he sketched towers, windows and floor plans on scraps of paper to give to his architect. Construction on the villa, sited on a dramatic bluff overlooking the Hudson River, began in 1851 and was completed the following year.
Locust Grove required a large and expensive staff to maintain, however, so after Samuel Morse’s death in 1872 his family spent little time at the estate and eventually rented it to William and Martha Young, a wealthy couple from Poughkeepsie.
Hopeful that the property would be available for sale, the Youngs began to furnish the empty house with family heirlooms in 1895. In 1901 they finally purchased the property and immediately began to expand and modernize the house as a year-round residence for their daughter, Annette, and their son, Innis. Mr. and Mrs. Young added a new, larger dining room wing, guest bedrooms, and practical conveniences like central heat, hot and cold running water, and electric lighting.
After the death of her brother Innis in 1953 Annette Young became the sole owner of the Locust Grove Estate as well as family properties in New Haven, New York City, and Ulster County. Conscious of her family’s importance in the Hudson Valley, Miss Young began donating to museums the art, land, and historic houses she inherited so that they would be protected in perpetuity. She spent twenty years at this project and, upon her death in 1975, established a not-for-profit foundation to ensure that Locust Grove, her home for eighty years, together with its collections and the Young family archives would be protected as a museum and nature preserve.
The estate opened to the public in 1979 and today features the Young family’s 15,000 piece collection of furniture, paintings and decorative arts just as they were used in the early years of the 20th century. Location:2683 South Road – Poughkeepsie NY 12601