San Francisco, CA: Catharine Clark Gallery presents Haywire, an exhibition of new work by Bay Area artist Kara Maria. On view September 12 – October 17, 2015, Haywire features paintings which blend abstract and representational traditions in a visual dialogue about the bizarre, precarious, and yet alluring state of our environment.
Maria’s latest body of work brings to the fore her talent for borrowing from the broad vocabulary of contemporary painting, blending geometric shapes, vivid hues, brush marks and stains with flashes of representational elements to address social and environmental dilemmas. The animal subjects in Haywire range from the reviled to the revered— and convey an edgy vibe about the convoluted state of the natural world. Paintings completed during her 2015 Recology Artist Residency feature creatures as common and abased as the trash heaps in which they thrive—rats, mice, seagulls, crows and raccoons. In contrast, the awe-inspiring Polar Bear, Black Rhinoceros and African Penguin in her newest works are rare and exotic, endangered or near extinct. All the animals, both those that humans abhor, and those we yearn to save, are portrayed with equal inherent poise, beauty, and penetrating presence. Her figures pose complicated questions about what humans value and why. The gravity of waste and hypocrisy, and the irony of creating habitat for what we revile and killing what we treasure, is heavy in Haywire. Yet Maria possesses a unique ability in her abstract aesthetic to liberate space, depict expansion, fragmentation, folding and growth, giving the work lightness and humor. There is room in Haywire for viewers to imagine a narrative without a foregone conclusion.
The physical environment and materials accessed by Maria at Recology are key elements in the artist’s latest innovations with abstraction. Using found stretched canvases, including amateur paintings and digitally printed, mass produced artwork from IKEA, Maria overpainted the works with recycled acrylic paint from the Household Hazardous Waste program. The disjointed shapes and vibrant colors reflect the churning and frenetic environment of the sorting facility. Literally using trash as her canvas, Maria incorporates familiar influences from the 1970s pop-culture of her childhood such as Lite Brite, Colorforms, Spriograph camouflage patterns and Japanese graphic novels. She captures repetition and rhythm, often using comic book imagery to represent the invisible—sound, surprise, shock. The original works in Haywire reflect Maria’s tenacious refusal to be constrained by any one painting discipline, and her acute eye for the turbulent and disquieting connections between humans and nature.