Jill Moser Tempers Control and Chaos in Abstract Paintings

Contemporary abstract artist Jill Moser is known for highly expressive works centered upon the line—in every form imaginable. She has been pursuing abstraction and its physical and conceptual tensions throughout her long career, proving that painting never died and there are still great depths to explore in non-representational art.

Celebrated for the subtlety and range of her mark-making, Moser once said that she is “interested in the way a viewer is engaged in a painting.” Though her compositions may appear spare at first, with her shapely lines and brushstrokes suspended against monochromatic backgrounds, there is much to engage with in her work. This is apparent at Phoenix’s Bentley Gallery, where ten years’ worth of the artist’s singularly expressive paintings grace the walls in a retrospective exhibition titled “Jill Moser: A Decade of Painting.”

“I use […] marks in a kind of explicit and cloaked way, so you think you’re seeing the artist’s hand, but sometimes you’re seeing the miming of the hand through a mechanical process,” Moser once explained. Such tensions—between the perceived and the actual, control and chaos, minimalism and abundance, and the conceptual and the formal—animate each one of the mid-scale paintings on view. In the oil and acrylic work Violet Noon (2012), for example, an assortment of thick, calligraphic brushstrokes and clumps of vigorously scribbled lines jostle for primacy against a white background. Some of the wider strokes seem languid and still, in contrast to the shorter, thinner ones, which appear to be in roiling motion. There is a subtle sense of depth here, too, as the canary-yellow marks practically pop off of the surface of the canvas, while the dark purple and hazy blue-gray ones hang back, almost like shadows.

In the oil-on-canvas painting titled Red Stills 2 (2006), lush, long crimson lines seem to dissolve into an off-white background. They call to mind drops of blood in water or the dissipating glow of bright neon signage seen on a hazy day. Though Moser claims that she’s “never made anything that’s tactile,” this, like many of her works, has a strong physicality. It seems to hold within its saturated surface the energy of the artist’s hand—or the device she may have used to make the marks instead.

Karen Kedmey

Jill Moser: A Decade of Painting” is on view at Bentley Gallery, Phoenix, Jan. 6– 31, 2015.

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