“I construct imagined forms from my examination of the disjointed properties that exist between natural and architectural structures. I build on these oddly similar properties by merging disconcerting color, abutments and abrupt juxtapositions to fabricate work where reason is suspended and beauty is suspect.”
Deborah Dancy’s first solo exhibition at Robischon Gallery, “Turbulence,” is an introduction to the artist’s sophisticated and intuitive visual language. Dancy’s approach to painting may at first appear as a hypnotic act of gesture and process, yet deeper inquiry reveals an organizational system both balanced and energetic. Overtly abstract in manner, the tension between each compositional element in Dancy’s work creates a sense of anticipation. She aggregates layers: demarcations, erasures and various substrates of paint merge on the surface of the canvas or paper, creating a kind of artistic palimpsest. For the artist, notions of time, history, detritus, and coincidence, present as nascent narratives that ask the viewer to investigate the complex and contradictory nature of abstraction.
The broad vocabulary featured in Dancy’s recent work explores both light-filled and richly dark terrain. Varying black lines of thicket-like forms and unexpected dynamic structures boldly command the arena. Alongside her many freely-painted grid elements, the artist applies dense pigments in a range of contrasting golden yellows, ivories and slates. In the lighter canvases, the artist pursues a softer note; central shapes made from continuous line or delicately-thatched brushwork all float in pale shifting backgrounds of grey, pink and chartreuse. In many of Dancy’s paintings, the open networks and irregularly shaped opaque passages carry a sculptural weight when placed atop, within or adjacent to swaths of muted or dense color. In other canvases, sensuous lines glide across an unobstructed surface until an unpredictable mass or contrasting vertically-painted perimeter redirects the eye.
In “Turbulence,” Deborah Dancy reveals a nuanced and forward-looking view of abstraction, embracing a kind of provisional sensibility and a refusal of the predictable or overly composed “ideal painting.” Dancy’s process moves between building and destroying: “I put paint on and scrape it off,” the artist states, “back and forth until I find that something that holds my interest, and then I expand upon it until it begins to announce itself with some authority.” In-keeping, each painting retains clear evidence of Dancy’s responsiveness to change and to the process of painting itself. Transparency can be radical and revelatory, as the artist pulls away from the well-trod notions of heroic painting and provides instead a way to appreciate the subtle and complex decision making required to take a different path. Dancy pushes the counterpoint to conventional abstraction with her prototypical architectural grids or structures, painted in such a way as to appear unstable and at risk of collapse – conveying a condition of vulnerability or its opposite, a firm belief in the unpredictable.
The artist’s evocative titles, such as Pitch and Pendulum, Folly’s Capture and Trapped by My Own Devices, hint at both narrative and process. The illusion of elements or objects in gravity, as in Same Place Different Time, with its floating wig-like form suspended within a kind of proscenium, speaks to an internal narrative, while Opus Incertum makes reference to ancient Roman construction. Dancy acknowledges that her visual language exists in a space between abstraction and narrative - a place, which the artist calls “an intermediary region full of potential and trepidation.” She further states, “I try to reconcile how to make an abstract painting interface with this quality of ‘about to become’ – that moment where an image begins to take on too much specificity by defining itself; that’s the space that excites and unnerves me because it’s a constant struggle to keep the ‘thingness’ at bay.”
Directed by a pursuit of the transformational, the evidence resides for the viewer within Deborah Dancy’s authentic mark, and for the artist, the process is furthered through keen observation, discovery and a dedication to see what is as yet unknown.
Deborah Dancy has degrees in painting and printmaking including an M.F.A. from Illinois State University, an M.S. from Illinois State University and a B.F.A. from Wesleyan University. She is the recipient of a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship; a Connecticut Commission of the Arts Artist Grant; a New England Foundation for the Arts/NEA Individual Artist Grant; and a Nexus Press Artist Book Project Award, among other recognitions. Her work is included in the permanent collections of institutions such as Boston Museum of Fine Art; Birmingham Museum of Art; Baltimore Museum of Art; Detroit Institute of Arts; Montgomery Museum of Art; Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga; Vanderbilt University; Grinnell College in Iowa; Allen Memorial Museum of Art at Oberlin College and the United States Embassy in Cameroon and is included in corporate and private collections such as General Electric Company, the Bellagio Hotel and Chemical Bank. She has been included in exhibitions at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art; the Spencer Museum at the University of Kansas; the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; DeCordova Museum in Massachusetts; Bruce Museum in Connecticut; and New Britain Museum of Art in Connecticut, among others. She is currently on the faculty of the University of Connecticut.