Alex Couwenberg at SCAPE

Alex Couwenberg. Southern California Art Projects and Exhibitions. Photo Courtesy of SCAPE

Alex Couwenberg

SCAPE, Southern California Art Projects and Exhibitions

By Liz Goldner

Through December 16th

 

This intriguing exhibition is as much about the illusion of depth—with paintings implying three-dimensionality within two-dimensional canvases—as it is about hard-edge abstraction. Inspired by a lifetime of observing SoCal’s images, especially its cars, surfboards and mid-century design, Couwenberg has created an oeuvre suggesting the energy, gloss and texture of the world around him—and us. Fueled by an obsessive desire to explore the processes and techniques of painting, and by the penchant to juxtapose different symbols and shapes within one painting, he addresses color, form, line, texture, shading and especially balance.

Working with acrylic paint and other tools, including brooms to texture the paint, the artist alternates between broad color fields and striated surfaces, the latter recalling the pin-striping techniques employed by hot rod artists. A simultaneous motivation is evoking the geometric elements of hard-edge abstraction (as opposed to the gestural abstract style), which came of age in mid twentieth-century California.

Looking at the ten paintings in this exhibition is to see an amalgam of dynamic pieces, in a range of bright, deep and muted colors, several of which recall the surfaces of cars and surfboards. These powerful paintings further display the blending of technical know-how and precise application with chemist-like mixing of paint, all the while maintaining personal expression and inspiration.

The large Into The Sea (2016), in various shades of bright to deep blue, recalls the ocean as its title implies. Yet its concentric geometric shapes, including ovals and triangles, are redolent of car hoods reflecting California’s setting sun. The smaller Tantrum (2012) employs deep reds, painted to the edge of the canvas, to brighter reds and oranges within, with triangular and rectangular surfaces, calling up the refined, carefully executed designs of the later industrial era. The larger 72″ x 66″ yet more subtle, Mikai, (2009), composed of broad swaths of yellow with smaller grey toned oval shapes reveals the artist’s careful and intuitive balancing of form and color. Blaster (2017), one of the boldest pieces in this show, combines pinks to bright reds with wide black and white stripes, surrounding an amorphous shape that could be part of a space ship or perhaps a car engine. Atilla (2017) reflects Blaster in color, shape and even in its amorphous shapes, yet its central abstract figure is significantly larger.

Just as the paintings in this exhibition reveal harmony and intuition, the individual works flow from one to the next, balancing each other and demonstrating artistic evolution and growth. These fascinating artworks demand the viewer’s attention with their abstract and glossy renderings of the world that most of us inhabit, and with their contemporary take on sixty-year-old hard-edge abstraction. With Couwenberg’s collective art pieces, the whole is greater than the
sum of the parts.

Alex Couwenberg, SCAPE, Southern California Art Projects and Exhibitions, 2859 East Coast Highway, Corona del Mar, CA 92625, (949) 723-3406, http://www.scapesite.com, to
December 16, 2017.

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