Shifting Landscapes at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
By Genie Davis
Through February 19th
At the Pasadena Museum of California Art through February 19th, “a sky in the palm of a hand,” dazzles with its lush, abstract ruminations on beauty and impermanence. The materials as well as the message of change and wonder that shapes these landscapes of earth and sky take center stage in the works of artists Lloyd Hamrol and Joan Perlman. Paired together, the pieces create a rather astonishing exhibition, whose title comes from a W.S. Merwin poem, “No Shadow.” Both intimate and distancing at the same time, Hamrol’s large felt sculptures and Perlman’s abstract paintings, prints, and video create a landscape indeed, one that dances, as the exhibition’s literature explains, between “culture and nature.”
The immersive show is beautifully interwoven, almost seamless, despite the fact that the two artists have never exhibited together before.
As one enters the exhibition space, the most immediately engaging and textural works come from Hamrol, a creator of site-specific public works whose felt sculptures create shapes that serve as a kind of transition between reality and dream. Using industrial felt, Hamrol creates installations that define a kind of natural architecture, representing the “buildings” of nature. Hamrol has worked with felt for over ten years.
Perlman bases her work on footage both she herself and others have taken in Iceland, creating visually bold images that present the vibrance of life beneath the cold, the extremes of freezing glacial melts and the steaming lagoons. Hers is a personal take on a landscape she has experienced and studied over the last twenty years.
Hamrol’s “Overflow” is a strong example of his fluid, large-scale felt sculptures, like overlapping water-shaped stones over which an imaginary liquid still flows. The piece captivates with what it shapes and reveals as well as its invitation to viewers to add more to the image itself than that which is physically viewable. Draped rather than permanently shaped, the artist has, and will continue to, reconfigure this piece throughout the exhibition. Equally powerful is Hamrol’s “Cascade,” which tumbles like a waterfall from a wall in a corner of the gallery. The large circular felt pieces are a rich brown, made of wool and straw, the color of stone, of earth, or soil. Hamrol cuts the felt from flat sheets into discs, layering them with virtually unseen wooden supports.
Pair these works with Perlman’s “Untitled” 2015 gouache on yupo, with its foamy, oceanic details, and you have a meditation on land and water that captivates from the floor/earth bound works of Hamrol to the paintings, print and video works of Perlman that seem alive and filled with motion. It’s a Pisces meets Taurus exhibition, water signs and earth signs coalescing. Take Perlman’s“Untitled (highlands),” 2016, another gouache work, whose vivid green evokes wet lands, marshes, fecund rain-drenched forests.
Like Hamrol, Perlman takes the idea of landscape and both literally and figuratively lets it flow from her acrylic paintings, monoprints, and video, taking detailed images and expanding them, reshaping a vastness from intimate detail.
Both artists deal with dimensional works that encourage viewers to explore and examine natural landscapes, the impermanence inside vast and seemingly sturdy natural structures and environments. Each of Perlman’s works create a delicate but powerfully connected idea
of transformation, mutability, and the resiliency of nature itself.
Light, color, texture, and an ephemeral yet vividly real depiction of Iceland’s geography make up her subject and form, her large scale paintings a dream-like capture of the artist’s own aerial photographs taken from small planes above Iceland’s most remote areas. The paintings are thickly layered, and have a glow to their palette which is both metallic and translucent.
Overall, the works of both Hamrol and Perlman express the evolving nature of landscapes, due to natural shifts, climate change, seasons, eras. In capturing their landscapes, they are also capturing a moment in time, beauty beheld, change in the making. That the title of the exhibition comes from a poem is deeply fitting: the works themselves are poignant and poetic, writ large as the land and sea that inspired them.
The museum is located at 490 East Union Street, Pasadena.