LAUNCH LA is proud to present Inform/Form, a joint exhibition by Lisa Bartleson and Alex Couwenberg. Inform/Form features two artists, who despite their diverging techniques and motifs are united by their masterful use of color and an appreciation of Southern California’s rich abstract legacy.
Lisa Bartleson’s latest works, part of a series called ‘Gradient’, radiate an infinite and immersive depth. Composed of bio-resin saturated with natural pigments and then poured into forms, these cast pieces display little visual information besides the gradual transition from one shade of color into another. This simplicity however is precisely what makes Bartleson’s new work so memorable. She is the epitome of the Southern Californian ‘Light and Space’ ethos – her works give a sense of light without actual illumination and achieve a kind of depth with color that perspective and other tricks of the trade cannot hope to imitate. For Bartleson these images represent the light she experienced while growing up in Northern Washington, where the atmosphere was often filled with tiny water particles which refracted the sun’s rays to give off blankets of ambient light. Hoping to evoke a similar feeling she created absorptive surfaces that the viewer “looks into rather than through”. The final images are stirring and evocative without being didactic or prohibitive. These gradients could just as easily be a chunk of the planet’s atmosphere or even the progressively darker depths of our oceans – they could be poignant metaphorical devices or maybe – just a man-made objects of pigment and resin. Bartleson, in any case, is a generous creator – she invites us to join in the act of creation.
Though Alex Couwenberg’s shares some of Bartleson’s influences, his paintings also contains traces of the wider cultural phenomena which make up ‘Californian’ identity – things like surfing, skateboarding, as well as West-Coast punk and hot-rods. His geometrical arrangements, built out of layers upon layers of paint, show his appreciation for the hard-edge school of painting and yet also capture some of the essence of the Californian sprawl that surrounds him. The long parallel lines of his surfaces seem like miniature boulevards stretching from the mountains to the sea and his boxy shapes are reminiscent of the utilitarianism found in L.A.’s Art Deco industrial districts. In homage to the ‘Finish Fetish’ movement of the ’60s and ’70s Couwenberg takes a great deal of time to create contrasting textures in his work, from surfaces sanded totally smooth to patches spackled on by pallet knife and run through with a broom to create deep ridges. The unique sense of order and co-relation in his shapes belies the intuitive processes that form them: often beginning only with a color palette in mind, tape is applied over swaths of paint only to be painted over again and again, from orange to black to white and back to black again, until it’s time for layers of tape to be peeled away to expose vivid shapes forms and lines beneath. The works that emerge are striking and full of instantaneous visual appeal.
Inform/Form features art as liberating to behold as it must have been to create and pays a fitting tribute to the fertile artistic ground that is Southern California.
Alex Couwenberg was born in Southern California and currently lives in L.A. He earned a BFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1995 and in 1997 earned a MFA from Claremont Graduate School. His work has been widely featured in galleries and museums across California and appears in private and corporate collections from California and New York all the way to Tokyo. His work been covered in many publications from Art LTD. to Artweek LA. He has been a frequent visiting artist and guest lecturer in Universities across America and in 2007 was the recipient of the Joan Mitchells Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant.