Monday, November 28, 2011

A Mind's-eye View


A Mind’s-eye View
By Tom Wachunas

My normal practice in reviewing art shows is to publish before the exhibit is closed, which is certainly helpful in bringing interested viewers to the gallery. Artists often tend to appreciate that kind of support, too. So it is with hat in hand that I offer my sincerest apology for being so late with this one. But the show in question, which closed on November 26 – “Women In Aprons” at Zygote Press in Cleveland - was just too sublimely memorable to fade away without some well-earned raving on my part.

The exhibit featured the printmaking works of two women - Hui-Chu Ying and Patricia Zinsmeister Parker – and its title seems to have derived in some part from Ying’s wall installation of 30 red fabric kitchen aprons, collectively titled “She Says,” tacked to one of the gallery walls. Each apron was embroidered with white script in phrases of a distinctly feminist character, such as “Give a woman a job she grows balls,” and “One woman can change anything.” But it is the relief monoprints in her Prayer Series where a remarkable pictorial magic is at work. Replete with delicate floral configurations and symbols from various religions, these lush prints, with their intricate fields of calligraphy punctuated by organic and representational forms, suggest elaborate embroidered prayer scrolls or ‘Oriental’ carpets, as well as delightfully meditative, abstracted landscapes.

The eleventh-hour drive to Cleveland was originally prompted by an invitation from Patricia Zinsmeister Parker to see her latest series of works made from rug liners (!) – those rubbery grid-like mats placed under area rugs to keep them from from slipping across smooth floors. Ten of her pieces here were in fact not prints per se, but layered ‘paintings’ mounted on black grounds, made from multiple mats, each a different bright, saturated color, while four of the pieces were monoprint collages – abstracts comprised of color fields printed directly from the rug liners. While nothing can compare to actually seeing these intriguing works up close and personal, the next best option is to spend time visiting her elegant web site, pzparker.com.

While Hui-Chu Ying’s prints certainly exude a clear, perhaps even conventional ‘sprituality,’ Parker’s are nonetheless invested with a contemplative if not more urbanized aura all their own. These slightly out-of-register grid configurations are grounds from which her forms and symbols (both familiar and irregular) rise, at once invading and evading our sense of equilibrium. It’s the visual co-existence of contrasting motifs that gives these works a sense of undulating drama, often with a sense of humor, as evidenced by such titles as “Cleveland Got Mojo,” “Central Park,” and “Swiss Bank Account.” Call it a street-savvy theatre on paper.

Parker’s ten painted assemblages pulse and undulate, too, with all the insistence of flashing neon lights against the black night. Yet interestingly enough, they’re not garish or off-putting, but exquisitely cerebral and subtle. These are quietly seething optical microcosms of compressed depth.

For a long while in viewing the show, “Women In Aprons” did suggest that ancient refrain, “…woman’s work is never done.” What continues to fascinate me about Parker’s evolving ouvre is its utter unpredictability, and her apparent unwillingness to settle too comfortably too long into a particular aesthetic. Never done indeed, she is in fact one woman who can change anything about her work. And she continues to do so with unflinching confidence, freshness, and daring.

Photo: “Clockwork Orange” monoprint collage by Patricia Zinsmeister Parker. pzparker.com

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