In the work of Jason Middlebrook
minimalist geometry meets nature’s unpredictability. The Hudson, New York-based
artist takes the carefully calculated patterns of 20th-century minimalism
forces them to confront the whims of nature, represented by the grain and
curves of the natural hardwood slabs upon which he paints.
In the new show “Line Over Matter”
at Austin’s Lora
—Middlebrook’s debut exhibition in the
gallery’s main space—the artist presents a series of these “plank paintings”
and works on paper. Many of the slabs lean up against the wall, like organic versions of California minimalist John
’s pristine planks. In contrast, Middlebrook
paints angular patterns and the swerving lines of Op Art
his wooden panels, the raw curves and unfinished edges of the hewn trunks
recalling the shaped canvases of Frank Stella
tension between the carefully organized motifs and the way the surface of the
wood both defies and confines them is a reminder of humanity’s (often futile)
attempts to impose order on the natural world.
While these works
are painstakingly detailed, there is much more to them than rigid patterns.
Yes, each plank piece embodies the tension between strict lines and organic
forms, but on closer inspection a deeper relationship between the two emerges.
The patterns call to mind a variety of natural phenomena, from the striations
of agate and geodes to veins of gold and silver referenced by the artist’s
choice of paint. As such, the boundaries between the manmade and the natural
begin to blur, leaving the viewer to simply celebrate the beauty of
Matter” is on view at Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, Texas, May 22–July 5, 2014.