Not the World as Seen, But the World as Lived

West Branch Gallery
Mar 25, 2015 5:35PM

Endless Beginnings,” on view through April 19, 2015 in the South Gallery of West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park, is an opportunity for viewers to explore how artists use a variety of visual strategies to convey ideas and emotions. Unlike art that is about people, places, and things–moments fixed in time–these artworks don’t necessarily have a beginning or an end. Instead, they possess endless possible ways to approach art and develop a relationship to it.

Two artists in the exhibition use color to evoke a response from the viewer: Idoline Duke and Val Rossman. But to appreciate their particular approach to art making, some history may be helpful.

Early Modernist abstract artists took, as a point of departure, the idea that color and shape were more important in creating art than depicting the world as they saw it. They arrived at this distinction from the Impressionists, who used this notion as a way of liberating painting from the limitations of sight. By doing this, the Impressionists were able to paint the experience of a scene–the feelings being at a place evoked in them–and not simply what they saw. Early Modernist abstract artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich believed art could also be about the arrangement of color. In 1913, when Kandinsky painted Squares with Concentric Circles,he declared that art could be a gesture of color and pattern. Since then, artists have explored a myriad of ways to delight and engage viewers simply by arranging color and shapes. This type of non-representational art became part of the visual lexicon that is still in use today.

Val Rossman’s Almost Never Dull is an acrylic painting on aluminum that uses an erratic pattern of color to portray the fragmented quality of contemporary life. In doing this, Rossman is asking us to think about our lives as these kinetic scraps of color.

“We are ceaselessly bombarded by ideas, images, and knowledge. Most of us are multi-tasking and overloaded with too many responsibilities. We have many choices. We look at 5 or 6 windows on the computer at the same time, constantly toggling back and forth between them. Our lives are fast-paced; seemingly in constant motion,” said Rossman. “These paintings and drawings attempt to create order out of chaos, imagining our lives as ‘patchwork quilts’; orderly and comforting, yet full of life and color.”

In contrast, Idoline Duke uses lines and color to capture the palette of a warm summer evening. Evening Lines (Summer) uses rows of elongated fluid shapes to carry a series of hues. From the top, whitish pinks ebb and change into magentas then orange. The tight configuration of shapes becomes a pattern as wider portions fit neatly into the thinner parts of those around it. While, as the viewer, we are left alone to imagine what these shapes could be, they offer us an easy harmony, like ripples on the water or heat vapors rising into the air.

This is what makes non-representational art exciting. When early, Modern, abstract artists liberated art from rendering the natural world, they did not liberate art from the world in which we live. While they are not painting things they see, Duke and Rossman are also not painting things they imagined in their studios. They are using color and shapes to give us an experience of the world in which we live. It is still our world: not the world we see, but the world as we live it.

In addition to a BFA from Tyler School of Art, Val Rossman is the recipient of two Vermont Studio Center Residencies (2009 and 2012) and the 1994 Award for Excellence in Drawing in the Artists Equity Triennial in Philadelphia. Since 1980, Rossman has been exhibiting in her work in solo and shows in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. Rossman’s work is in the collections of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the ARCO Chemical Company, and MasterCard International Headquarters, among others. Val Rossman lives and works in Philadelphia.

Idoline Duke was born in New York City and received a BA in Art History, Studio Art from the University of Vermont in 1983. She also received a certificate in Landscape Design from the Inchbald School of Design in London. Duke was the Exhibitions Director and Curator at the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, Vermont from 2006 to 2009 and the curator of the traveling exhibition,“Women to Watch 2010″ for the Vermont Committee of the National Museum for Women in the Arts. Since 2007, Duke has shown her work extensively in Vermont, Connecticut, and in the Hamptons, including Helen Day Art Center and at the 2012 Art Hamptons Art Fair. She lives and works in Vermont.

West Branch Gallery