Polychromatic Mojo at Cerritos College Art Gallery

Karri Paul in Polychromatic Mojo / Color as Content at Cerritos College Art Gallery. Photo credit: Lorraine Heitzman.

Polychromatic Mojo / Color as Content

Curated by Hagop Najarian
at Cerritos College Art Gallery
Through December 7


By Lorraine Heitzman

Color and the vibrant possibilities of paint are the organizing principals behind the expressive and joyful show, Polychromatic Mojo, at Cerritos College Art Gallery. As curated by Hagop Najarian, an artist and Professor of Art at Cerritos College, the show features work by June Edmonds, Sarajo Frieden, Linda King, John Koller and Karri Paul. While most work falls under a broad, abstract and multi-colored umbrella, each artist manipulates color uniquely, proving that there are many ways to create the visceral experiences only color can induce.

Colorful vibrations resound in June Edmonds’ tactile paintings, from the lush, wavy strokes she applies in oil and acrylic paints, to the repetition of contour lines. The simple geometric forms and brilliant colors evoke Alfred Jensen’s paintings and tribal textiles, and her bright, clean palette invigorates with carefully delineated gradations in both subtle and contrasting colors. Edmonds uses repetition of shapes, brushstrokes and alternating colors to emphasize circular and ovoid shapes, creating a powerful dynamic in the process. Her paintings have the concentric focus of mandalas and other spiritual forms of art, but their intensity seems to belie any purely meditative purpose, especially when the pleasure quotient runs so high. Still, the hypnotic effect that Edmonds achieves, even viewed though a secular lens, is powerful and a large part of the seductive nature of her paintings.

Karri Paul’s approach to color is distinctly different than the ethnographic and spiritual references found in Edmonds’ paintings. In Paul’s work, an architectural quality predominates in her dimensional, painted wood assemblages. The architecture comes through in her materials and the reliance on vertical and horizontal shapes within her mainly rectilinear compositions. They are like puzzles, pieced together in a process that only ends when the shapes and colors all mesh satisfactorily. Where Edmonds uses glossy, textured surfaces, Paul’s crude grids are matte and her colors are frequently muted chalky shades interrupted by bright accents. They recall paint charts that arrange colors by hue and then offer a multitude of complementary shades and tints to encourage harmony. Paul achieves the same in a satisfying balance between the rough, hand-made construction and the precision of her color choices.

In her buoyant paintings on canvas, wood panels and paper, Sarajo Frieden takes a more pronounced imagistic and decorative approach to her playful work. From floral imagery woven between patterns, to cutouts that extend in radiating forms beyond the implied frame, Frieden explores movement and chance in myriad colors, shapes, transparencies and patterns. In one painting she combines linear drawings of random objects with mysterious cuneiforms that invite comparisons to a wacky, dysfunctional game of Chutes and Ladders; in another, images suggest a roadmap. However they manifest, Frieden’s paintings exude a lighthearted quality, rejoicing, it seems, in a whirlwind of materials and ideas woven together. Sometimes Frieden’s work may flirt with chaos, the paintings on the cusp of losing their structure, but she never allows them to reach that tipping point. Instead, her ability to organize her complex paintings results in works that codify her curiosity, diverse passions and predisposition towards experimentation.

Lastly, Linda King and John Koller complete Polychromatic Mojo, bringing both fantastical visions and subtleties into the mix. King creates atmospheric conditions out of poured paint in paintings that evoke geological forces or perhaps interstellar nebulae. Her use of high intensity colors against dark backgrounds emphasizes the flow of paint. Likewise, the single-colored shapes that contrast against the organic, oceanic passages contribute by adding tension through opposing forces. King also plays with the illusion of space by using color to delineate backgrounds and foregrounds, and with the addition of geometric patterns in her largest work, these effects are even more apparent. Koller shares some of King’s attraction to the dark end of the color spectrum, though he is more concerned with materiality than illusion. His works reveal his interest in nuanced variations in color, often via textures and sometimes through objects, as his sculpture and installations attest. The most successful of these are his quiet paintings of limited colors. Koller uses the texture of dabs of paint to catch the light, allowing the viewer to see the subtle differences in a sort of Ad Reinhardt manner, reminding us to carefully observe, that all work isn’t bombastic.

In highlighting the work of these five artists, Polychromatic Mojo provides a limited, but insightful survey into some of the ways color is used. This inquiry opens the door to all manner of questions about color relationships and is instructive as it is visually provocative. Edmonds, Frieden, King, Koller and Paul each use color to achieve different ends, to seduce, play, activate or question. This show provides the opportunity to examine their individual methods while enjoying the primacy and pleasure of paint.

Cerritos College Art Gallery
Fine Arts Building, Room 50
Cerritos College
11110 Alondra Blvd
Norwalk, CA 90650
HOURS: Monday & Tuesday: 11am – 4pm & 5pm – 7pm
Wednesday – Friday: 11am – 4pm


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