Ruth Root at 356 S. Mission Rd.
By Genie Davis
on view through November 12th
Now through November 12th at 356 Mission, New York-based artist Ruth Root offers a vibrant mixed media exhibition that is both visually and materially textured, created on Plexiglass and fabric.
The color is intense, visually imprinting itself on the viewer. While the Plexiglass components are sleek and modern, as shiny and colorful as hard candy, the fabric components result in images that are reminiscent of modern tribal art, evoking work from Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Tibet.
Perhaps it’s this cultural reference – and reverence – that adds to the life-affirming, sensibility here. There is a warmth and joyousness to these abstract works, something that feels connected to the human spirit. There is nothing cold about these works, not in terms of the palette, or in terms of their geometric forms. The preciseness of their external shape belies a less perfectly defined texture up close – these are abstracts that revel in their humanness.
While, yes, these are definitely geometric images, the use of fabric as a component in the pieces warms them, while the use of acrylic on Plexiglass captures light, and with that light, infuses each work with a sense of liveliness and playfulness. The fabrics, with patterns designed by Root herself using Photoshop, include both images of her own work, and whimsical items such as slices of pizza. The artist has said that creating these patterns and how they repeat themselves are like figuring out a puzzle, and the viewer’s eye is also magnetically drawn to sorting these images.
The shapes of the paintings themselves are interestingly alive. It is as if the art has reshaped the confines of a traditional canvas; these abstract works unfold like opened wrapping paper, or non-representational origami.
At 356 Mission, the works seem perfectly placed, making great use of the light-filled, vastly open warehouse gallery. Often the space at the main gallery seems underused, but here, through the use of floating walls curated by the artist, there is the sense of walking through a series of smaller rooms or an easy-to-navigate maze. The use of these walls also limits exposure to each piece, expanding the impact of each individually, in a way not possible if a viewer was seeing them laid out conventionally against the gallery’s walls.
Root’s works here are untitled, but title seems beside the point: these works are less concerned with a precise meaning or reference, and more about visual emotion. Whether we are looking at Plexiglass or fabric that features images of triangles or elongated ovals, stripes, mini-pizza slices, the face of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, round circles on small oblongs that resemble headlights, we do not need a title to define the meaning of either the abstract images or the figurative symbols. Instead, we take in that overall brightness, the contrast in materials, fabric with all its feminine implications, Plexiglass with all its cool futuristic evocations and hard “maleness” — and we end up with something that is all about being alive.
Root’s works here are really large scale, brightly colored puzzle pieces. Exactly how they fit together is the artist’s mystery for the viewer to solve. The large scale, the slightly mysterious stripes and circles of Root’s abstraction, the intimate repeating patterns of her fabric work, all combine to create a new kind of tribal art, one in which viewers are glad to be included.