KENDRA FERGUSON Congress Street Gallery
NOA WARREN Congress Street Gallery
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Kendra Ferguson's reductive drawings and sculpture have been described as both restrained and passionate. Spare in the extreme the drawings are sometimes no more than incised lines on white, handmade paper. The sculpture has been described variously as elegant, refined and severely perfect . Made from meticulously honed red beech or maple, the sculpture, like the drawing, is spiritual and deeply personal. Since her first solo exhibit in the mid 1970s with the pioneering art dealer, Betty Parsons, Kendra Ferguson has exhibited widely in both the United States and in Sweden where she lived for several years. She has received numerous awards including two Pollock-Krasner Foundation grants and the MFA Boston Maude Morgan Prize. Her work is included in the permanent collections of many significant museums and institutions including the Museum of Modern Art , the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum in New York, The museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Fogg Art Museum and the Houghton Library at Cambridge University, The Boston Public Library, The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK, and the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden as well as in the private collections of such artists as Sol LeWitt. Kendra Ferguson resides and maintains a studio on Deer Isle.
A span of time is represented by my drawings and sculptures in June Fitzpatrick's exhibition this fall. Through the confluence of events, I have been made aware of my history throughout this year. This awareness came through the process of cataloguing my sculptures and drawings, through the process of reclaiming my Montana heritage and maiden name for private use, through the discovery of a family history with Mayflower ancestors who established the first Pilgrim trading post at the head of the Kennebec River in Maine. How delighted I've been to discover my English family also came to know the beauty of the Maine coast!
Once June Fitzpatrick and I selected works for the Portland exhibition, my immediate impression was that they all represented places to me. Initially they reminded me of the places where I made the works Cambridge, Sweden, Boston, Deer Isle. But more to the point, I was reminded of the places I was spiritually and emotionally that generated the particular composition or form. Forms appear as one places down a hand--holding instruments--on paper or on wood. My particular forms are characterized by restraint, rhythm, structured discussions, harmony of scale, music.
I read that one can become rescued by a voice--the warmth of a voice, the timbre of a voice. For decades it seemed I was unable to speak up. Yet I have found that even my earliest works were accurately giving voice to my circumstances at the time. It's been astonishing to discover the authenticity of these images. In looking back at my earlier work, I have come to understand that the drawings and sculptures gave voice in a manner I was never able to achieve orally.
When an artist regards one's past formed by inheritance, temperament and earlier experiences, it is what is built upon by our own seeking. One looks at earlier work and sees one's past self and so different are the past selves from the self one now is. Some ancient cultures believed that we are born without a face and that we must, over time, earn our faces bit by bit. They told us that we can only do this by honoring truth, by being authentic.
My works are deliberate. They are meditations. When I come to the end of a line, I know there are hundreds left to complete. Precise repetitions form a litany. My work is quiet yet has often come from turbulence. The act of making it so carefully has been peace bringing. The drawings and sculptures have helped me find my way one believes--one intends authentically--in such a manner that I hope I am beginning to win my face, bit by bit, one work at a time.
Viewers not aware of an artist's history and in regarding these pieces will be grounded in their own personal authenticity, by what has happened to them, by the profound influence exerted on them by people they've met, books read, art seen, music listened to, struggles confronted. What I hope they will find is what TS Eliot speaks of--"The stillness between two waves of the sea."
Noa Warren is a newcomer. A 2006 graduate of the Maine College of Art, his work has a level of maturity and sophistication that belies his status as an emerging artist. His uncompromisingly detailed paintings are illusionistic. They challenge visual cognition: what we see, don't see or think we see. The work is based on graph paper. He uses the grid as a pattern to create perspective. Ultra fine lines incised on acrylic coated linen are then imbued with color in such a way the image seems to float above the surface. His work has been described as "marked by reticence and adherence to the principles of linear elegance". Noa Warren resides and maintains a studio in Portland. This is his second exhibit at June Fitzpatrick Gallery.
These works are based loosely on graph paper. I am interested in these sheets as tools used to plot and coordinate unreal objects in unreal space. By altering and drawing these grids as subjects, I am examining them purely as a pattern used to create perspective; describing the third dimension form the second.
The surface is simultaneously the foundation of the 2nd dimension and the superficial expression of three-dimensional material. My process explores perceptual distinctions of actual and artificial surfaces, between objects and two-dimensional representations.
I would like this work to encourage viewers to consider the malleability of sight, that our visual cognition of the world and the surfaces we see are never entirely accurate or complete. Our eyes detect light reflected by materials and the resulting perception is an estimate, subject to abstractions. Artists influencing this work include: Gerhardt Richter, Toba Khedoori, James Turrell, Vija Celmins, Rene Magritte and Agnes Martin.
Excerpted Maine Sunday Telegram review by Philip Isaacson, October 18, 2009
KENDRA FERGUSON-NOA WARREN AT JUNE FITZPATRICK GALLERY
...Kendra Ferguson drawing... Severe, unyielding, precise to the point at which no detail is extraneous...both an aesthetic and an intellectual journey...
A work by Ferguson forces you into retreat. You have to step back, define where you come from and then ask if there is a role in the arts for work that is so minimal in application by the artist that it is close to vacancy? How apparent must the hand of the artist be? How many marks does it take to induct a sheet or a small board into the arts? The arts are not a jealous mistress, but they have boundaries.
As quietly proud of your enlightenment as you may be, Ferguson is closer to those boundaries than you'll ever get. And that's her grasp on you. She forces you to accept the satisfaction of linear logic in the place of easy emotions. Any story she may have to tell is well-hidden. The purity of her concepts, the flawlessness of the indentations and sparse lines on her sheets and the perfect saw cuts that create her sculpture embrace another kind of beauty--the sharp aesthetics of logic. Therein lies a profound pleasure. Please note that I haven't used the word elegant. Ferguson is light years beyond that.
And now a note of caution. When thinking about Ferguson or Greg Parker or Fred Lynch, Jeff Kellar, Martha Groome, Duane Paluska, or other consummate linear technicians, don't define them by their technical skills. Look beyond deftness to their essays on aesthetics.
And this leads me to Noa Warren, who joins Ferguson on the walls at the Fitzpatrick. This, his second show, is a more evolved appearance. Using a technique that is too excruciating to contemplate, he is establishing himself as an incipient master of geometric abstraction. A sense of position, of authority has replaced a feeling of trial and the work is more dynamic.
It's not a matter of a fabric-like net lying dormant on a plane; rather, it's a quest for animation. Warren's geometry is capable of adjustment, almost before your eyes. He is a fortunate addition to our super rationalists.
Excerpted Portland Phoenix review by Annie Larmon, October 16, 2009
KENDRA FERGUSON-NOA WARREN AT JUNE FITZPATRICK GALLERY
Kendra Ferguson and Noa Warren are deftly paired at June Fitzpatrick's Congress Street gallery this month, as an established and emerging artist each compulsively explore the subjective and human potential of minimalism. Though experience greatly divides the two (Ferguson's work spans 35 years, while Warren's only dates back to 2008), their work is strikingly complementary, sharing a meticulous restraint matched, it seems, by proliferation. Both artists use the confines of hard lines and simple geometries to filter personal expression, but approach their materials sensitively, distilling experience and history to form meditative multi-dimensional objects.
Ferguson's drawings and sculptures exude concurrent confidence and reticence, using bold simple forms that almost overshadow quieter nuances in the work. In both mediums she adheres to a minimal vocabulary, and is fastidious in executing perfect forms and consistent lines, but allows whim and femininity to soften and personalize the work. Her sculptures are architectural and obsessive, and while reminiscent of Carl Andre's building-block-like arrangements, are carved from flushed red beech or maple, infusing them with warmth and familiarity. The effect of shadows and subtle turbulence of clashing wood grains are pleasing to discover, and carefully placed notches at once suggest decorative fringe and mathematical or musical code. It is this oscillation between the object and the metaphor that make Ferguson's work both monumental and approachable.
A perfect red circle is centered on handmade white paper in Ferguson's drawing "Dance Class 2," with an arc cutting through the composition to suggest a larger circle. The command of red and the severity of a perfect circle display control, but incised lines skirt around the forms, barely perceptible, flirting with the flawless shapes and inviting chaos. Like "Dance Class 2," Ferguson's titles bring her work from the intellectual to the personal realm, grounding the images in places or memories, as she discusses in her artist statement.
Though Warren is only three years out of art school, this is his second show coupled with an established artist at June Fitzpatrick in the last two years, and again, he is proving to hold his own. Both artists here could be seen as paying quiet homage to Agnes Martin: Ferguson in her drawing "I Remember Sky-1C" and her expressionist approach to minimalism, and Warren more directly meditating on the symbol, or vehicle, of the grid.
While Warren relies on the grid in his reductive paintings on linen, they are far from literal, incorporating illusion to defy conventions of two-dimensional space and question perception. His paintings are largely sculptural, depicting crumpled graph paper so meticulously rendered that the forms reject the linen they hover over and appear self-contained.
The lines composing Warren's crumpled grids recall the delicacy of thread and lace, and are pretty, challenging the strictness inherent in the guidelines posed by the grid. The work is most successful when creases and folds of the grid are arbitrary and organic, deteriorating the form, as opposed to carefully measured and uniform folds. While the subject matter is unsentimental, the linen he paints on is salvaged from his grandmother's attic, and though this history is not overplayed in the work, the antique umber of raw linen subtly competes with the soft palette of white and pastel blue, to ghostly and nostalgic effect.