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Harwood features abstraction

“Seif, No. 1” by Rachel Zollinger allows the viewer’s eye to follow the path of an organic line as it passes through a geometric grid while creating an elegant low relief topographical sculpture.

“Seif, No. 1” by Rachel Zollinger allows the viewer’s eye to follow the path of an organic line as it passes through a geometric grid while creating an elegant low relief topographical sculpture.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Harwood Art Center is hosting two stunning shows titled “Re (structure),” recent work by neo-minimalist Rachel Zollinger in the front gallery, and “Overlap” with abstract paintings and collage by Michael Hudock, Orlando Leyba and Kevin Tolman.

Zollinger has installed a very professional looking and well-crafted solo exhibition celebrating the topography of lines within both two and three dimensional compositions. This is a very accomplished and well-executed body of work that nicely revisits minimalism with a contemporary “land art” upgrade.

Though I’m sorely tempted to produce the prodigious and arcane verbosity invited by the minimalist genre, I will reluctantly exercise restraint while eschewing obfuscation and confine the main scope of this review to the “Overlap” three artist exhibition in the main gallery.

Hudock, Leyba and Tolman are longtime friends who visit each other’s studios from time to time where they either find fault or give and receive praise for their efforts. All three explore the abstract expressionist genre that dominated contemporary arts for about 25 years during the last century.

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AE, as the movement came to be known in mid-1960s academic circles, was the only modernist genre developed in the United States prior to becoming a global phenomena.

The attraction offered by abstract expressionism for post-World War II artists, some of whom were recovering from both visible and invisible wounds, was its incorporation of surrealism, Asian Sumi ink painting techniques and nonobjective abstraction.

With an emphasis on the transfiguration of form, the gesture of the hand and for the most part the de-emphasis of the human form, post-war artists found a balm for their damaged psyches. The AE movement ran its course from 1945 to 1970 with many pioneer abstractionists like David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Robert Walters, Richard Diebenkorn, Charles Strong and others who returned to the human figure and the landscape for inspiration.

Hudock, Leyba and Tolman are among the many third generation AE artists who easily find fertile ground along the untilled edges of abstraction.

Hudock also incorporates palimpsest techniques in his layered paintings that inject a sense of time passing and antiquity into his nonobjective images. Some of his paintings are reminiscent of the old Polaroid photographs that the photographer had to coat with a protective fixative. If done in haste the missed areas would fade leaving behind a streaked image that had an interdimensional quality.

My favorite among Hudock’s offerings is “Helene’s Blues,” one of his most geometric constructivist compositions. The rectilinear forms in a variety of scales create an upbeat rhythm throughout the painting that echoes the push-pull spatial effect sought by New York artist Hans Hoffman.

Leyba’s joyful high-energy works are colorful, complex and comforting to view. His forms float in a creamy French vanilla background space highlighted by spots of bright color and a repetition of elements some of which are block printed onto the surface.

 “Cuerda” by Orlando Leyba has a joyful feeling imparted by the bright touches of color within a creamy French vanilla background.

“Cuerda” by Orlando Leyba has a joyful feeling imparted by the bright touches of color within a creamy French vanilla background.

In “Cuerda” Leyba utilizes a variety of media to manifest living forms that co-exist while expressing their unique qualities. When cameras fell into the hands of artists back in the 1840s, compositional structure in paintings began to echo the Cyclops viewpoint offered by the single lens.

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Instead of composing images to fit within the edges of the canvas post-photographic painters allowed elements to be chopped off at the edges. Leyba’s edges chop off his abstracted forms as if shot with a single lens camera.

Tolman is a perennial master abstractionist with ties to Taoism and a solid knowledge of art history. He built his house and studio on the edge of the bosque near Old Town, where he, like a Taoist philosopher, pays homage to the rural nature of his urban surroundings.

Tree leaves, bird tracks, worm paths in mud and scurrying beetles draw his attention as does the wind rustling through the branches just outside his studio window.

Tolman offers five painted collages to the exhibit with three selections from his “Garden of Delights (Albuquerque Series).” In “Garden of Delights III (Albuquerque Series)” Tolman juxtaposes a magazine photo of a flower with a fractured underlying architectonic structure. Blacks, whites and grays compete for attention. The vertical composition falls within a square format covered with dripping paint like the aftermath of a spring rain on a windowpane.

All four artists in these two exhibitions deserve kudos for producing high-quality works that excite the eye while conjuring the distant echoes of philosophy. Two thumbs up.


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