Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Consider the Source

In the current issue of ArtNews, the magazine takes a look back at their critics’ pronouncements. “Some were prescient, others were clunkers,” the magazine admits with the kind of savage gleefulness usually reserved for the perusal of personal pictures from, say, the 7th grade.

For example, Picasso’s (obvious, yes, but succinct) works were decried as figures made by children with blocks. But in 1958, Rothko’s work got different treatment: “The effect was both of a limitless splendor and of the tenderest and most realistic precision, like the one drop of blood that feel when Snow White’s mother pricked her finger.

And because I can’t resist, a 1994 review of Hirst’s work, “…Only 28, Hirst is maturing into a serious artist who understands that art is not about the show, but rather what goes on behind the stage.”

More than anything, besides a good-natured look into its archives, the ArtNews flashback poses the question of the importance of the (art) critic, and more broadly the importance of being “right.”

So, in looking at Brittni Wood’s recent work at the Jane Gray gallery, one is forced to consider her work not just under her statement that the work examines “social issues of today, with an emphasis on ideas of religion, sexuality, and gender roles,” but also to consider the possibility for evolution.

Wood’s works examine big-ticket issues notably tackled by artists like Kiki Smith, Eva Hesse, Judy Chicago, and Miriam Shapiro. And indeed there are overt references to these artists in her works from gingham-ish fabric to glossy spills, and icons that resemble vaginas.

However, at a certain point, the artist seemingly departs from her mission and begins exploring Clyfford Still-like fields of color. Juxtaposed with gingham strips of fabric glued to the canvas, they are neither a wholesale enough rejection of aesthetic values, or a carefully considered and composed composition.

On the whole, the artist’s smaller works were more successful than the larger pieces. In the petite ones, she managed to control the entire surface, while some of the larger paintings seemed to run away with her.

Right now, it seems Wood is in a transitional phase and it remains to be seen how she will choose to marshal her talent.

More of her work can be viewed at:
www.janegraygallery.com or www.brittniwood.com

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