Two Important Exhibitions Shine at Roberts Projects

Holding Up 1/2 the Sky, Curated by jill moniz at Roberts Projects. Photo courtesy of the gallery.

Two Important Exhibitions Shine at Roberts Projects

Betye Saar Something Blue
Holding Up 1/2 the Sky, Curated by jill moniz

Through December 15th

By Genie Davis

Two fascinating, deeply felt exhibitions shine at Roberts Projects: Betye Saar: Something Blue, and the group show Hold Up ½ the Sky, curated by jill moniz. Both shows are a triumph, emotionally riveting and visually adept.

Saar’s work here features a selection of dimensional pieces that feature the color blue. Indigo, cobalt, teal – this is the stuff of seas, skies, Virgin robes, shadow, twilight, and argon. Here the color weaves a sense of mystery and magic and occult rituals. Saar’s mixed media works represent the jeweled, rich world of voodoo. She uses religious objects such as crosses and the Sacred Heart in juxtaposition with totems and charms that reference palmistry and astrology in work such as “La Cruz Indigo.” Her “Indigo Illusions” includes melting blue candles, a computer motherboard, neon, beads and bottles. Other assemblages feature small Egyptian religious statues, images of eyes shaped with glowing blue baubles, outlines of hands, a jewelry box whose open drawers are filled with blue and gold treasure. Suspended from the gallery ceiling, a bird cage holds glowing blue glass. There are window-like dimensional paintings as well; they depict planets, hands, and eyes; a glowing red ruby of a heart beats within a dark palm. Six hands in varying hues of blue offer images of stars and moon, palmistry charts, small objects that protrude from finger tips such as a key and a crown. These are works that revere mystical meaning, they seem to be created whole from dreams, memories, and myths. Saar’s assemblages revere the rich heritage of powerful African gods, and are a testament to faith, to the passionate crafting both of spells and the magic of art.

The moniz-curated Holding Up 1/2 the Sky, is the perfect counterpart to the Saar exhibition. The show includes works by Lisa Bartleson, Chenhung Chen, Mika Cho, Adrienne DeVine, Karen Hampton, Cole James, Maria Larsson, Victoria May, Blue McRight, Rebecca Niederlander, Enchiko Ohira, Kyungmi Shin, Alexis Slickelman, and Camilla Taylor. Each abstract work exudes a textural aura that pulls the viewer in – from the delicate suspended wire mesh sculpture of Chen to the smooth white gypsum cement of Larsson.

Each working with wire sculptures that hang, transcendent, from the gallery ceiling, Chen, DeVine, and McRight offer very different pieces. McRight’s is frayed and fringed; strange creatures waiting to gestate in her installation “Undescribed Variation.” The otherworldly pieces are shaped from thread, wool, netting, and jute. Chen’s “Rising and Falling” evokes mysterious orbs inside a greater form. It is reminiscent of a sea creature or an alien from another planet, sinuous and undulating. Her work was tinted specially for this exhibition; her usual copper wire color palette is brighter and burnished. Devine’s piece is a woven cosmos in mixed media, fantastical.

Larsson gives us a solid, perfectly formed white sculpture resembling an oyster shell with a crystal pearl at its center; a second similar form “lay down, shape up, keep your orbit in balance” is all a solid, ghostly white. Slickelman’s sculptures remind the viewer of washed and polished river rock, while May’s soft “Formation” resembles layers of sand on that river’s bank, shaped from the folds of an army blanket and stones, contained in a wooden box. Her wrapped black wall sculpture evokes a cocoon. Ohira’s paper and cardboard sculptures include a large- scale abstract floral image that is of both the sea and the earth, a strange blossom or a sea anemone; another resembles a soft, dark tree limb, fecund and moist. A curved foot shaped in Kiln-cut glass reaches up beneath a glass dome in Taylor’s haunting piece “Unremitting.” The work speaks of grief and loss, a preserved elegy.

Elegantly laid out, the show features shades of brown, beige, black, white, and cream. Designed to reveal the ways in which these sculptural forms bloom from the heart, soul, and hands of female artists, the color palette is of the ultimate female, Mother Earth, even as Saar’s is of the sky.

The pairing of these two exhibitions is a wonderful combination. Both the thematic colors of each show and their rich textures and patterns compliment and contrast, intensely physical and spiritual. The viewer is plunged into a world inhabited by abstract forms that evoke natural shapes. Never defining or limiting these images to easy categorization, the artists create works that are highly evocative, and seem to represent both another world than ours and an inner grace.

The exhibitions run through December 15th.

Roberts Projects
5801 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, California 90232
Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm or by appointment


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