By Richard Tobin, The Magazine, 1995
Now David was small but oh my… The choice of the title Slingshot for the recent group exhibition (901 W. San Mateo) symbolized the daunting task of several Northern New Mexico artists taking aim at the Goliath of Santa Fe’s art market. The results were impressive. The highly professional show comprised over 60 abstract oils and monoprints by seven artists from Taos and Santa Fe.
Kristine Keheley achieves large effects on a small surface. In A Calm Stretch (oil on masonite), atmosphere and dense tonalities combine without loss of chromatic subtlety or structure. In Faith (oil and ink on paper) fluid ink brush strokes hang like a sword in a spatial maze, its surface laced with threadlike script alluding to Ariadne’s patient conquest of her own labyrinth.
Michael Schroeder creates monoprints of abstract harmonies in earth colors, reworking the composition with collage and graphic elements. Her Fires is a grid of uniform squares of red, yellow, and green anchored by gray. In Beneath Your Flower, gray is deployed in chiasmic pattern with red and green. Each monotype bears the marks of a strong personal style and narrative impulse. In Ria Burnett’s Orchard (mixed media with emulsion transfer) two rows variously project images attached to deep frames or objects encased within them. The artist’s interplay of pictorial form with tangible matter create a pensive sense of close observation and personal memory. Burnett uses similar framing of pastel and emulsion image in Split in Twos, combining abstract analysis and landscape association.
R. Angele Mason uses the media of graphite and pastel to produce small, engaging studies of sculptural shapes with the enigmatic title, Men Without Balls Live in Small Houses. These tools are turned with good effect to the larger format of Darkness Has a Hunger, a composition of plastic shapes on a chalky matte surface; the structure relies upon the configuration of forms on the neutral ground.
Suzanne Wiggin works in oils on wood, canvas, and linen. Bluish Day (oil on wood) demonstrates her sure brush technique and strong command of natural palette, while Late Daylight (oil on wood) shows her acute observation of nature. In Small Pond the painter shifts her approach to a more analytic, planar treatment of natural form through a highly expressive balance of horizontal bands of intense, bright hues.
Wendy Orville creates an abstract play of primaries in concert with landscape subject in a series of three monoprints. In Motionless Sun, landscape serves as loose structure to anchor the expressive color areas. In Late Moon (monoprint) Orville achieves monumental effects in her handling of a nearly monochromatic expanse of dark blue color field.
In his oils on paper transferred to canvas (Untitled, 33-38), Randall La Gro imbues high-key abstraction with narrative relief. His assertive brushwork and vigorous hatching of the surface never intrudes on the illusive power of his colors. The compositions maintain this aerial/tactile ambiguity even where he moves to more expressive range and more palpable handling. La Gro exploits the pictorial capacity to evoke plastic form and expansive space.
The collaborative monoprints, Slingshot I and 11, reflect a quality projected by all the artists in the exhibition. Beyond the group’s mastery of monoprint and accomplished, personal control of color and line, each artist conveyed a deep sensitivity to their high-desert milieu, however abstract a direction the artist pursued in his or her own work. That response to place explains in part the success and broad appeal of this exhibition.