Persuasive Work by Valerie Wilcox and Victoria May
Launch LA, Los angeles
Through June 11, 2022
Written by Lorraine Heitzman
In Valerie Wilcox and Victoria May’s harmonious show at Launch LA, the artists have found the common denominator that bridges their individual sensibilities. They each rely on the physical properties of their mediums, and are both drawn to a wide array of found materials, subtle palettes and textures, all within a minimal framework. The viewer is encouraged to observe and appreciate these attributes, not only as an aspect of their work, but also as its subject. Material Persuasions requires a quiet attentiveness, but will reward those who take their time.
Wilcox favors painted constructions made with salvaged wood, plaster, papier-maché, and other building materials. She pieces them together to form a unified shape, and then introduces elements into her compositions to delineate and disrupt. Mostly she uses wood trim pieces to intersect and emphasize an area, but she sometimes uses color for the same purpose, particularly in her smaller work. Meditation On Solitude exemplifies her control of different materials held together in a delicate pastel balance. Like much of her work, it has architectural elements, and seems indebted to the planar constructions of Russian constructivists, though more decorative than didactic. Hanging on the opposite wall, Reconfigured May appears to be a companion piece realized in contrasting colors and curvilinear elements. It’s more playful than “Meditation”, perhaps more Elizabeth Murray than El Lissitzky, but they engage in conversation despite their differences.
Untitled With Blue is the most elegant of Wilcox’s work. It is a small wooden leaf-shaped sculpture that highlights the color and fine grain of the naturally finished wood. A single element of blue painted trim interrupts and pierces the shape on one side, adding movement and interest. The precious jewel quality of the piece works in its favor and suggests that the craftsmanship on display here could elevate some of her other work. This is not to say that everything should be as refined as Untitled With Blue, but it calls into question the intention and level of craft in other work that falls into a middle ground between raw and polished. What is apparent, though, is Wilcox’s skill in integrating her materials, resulting in nuanced assemblages with a sense of humor lurking just beneath the surface.
In a complementary manner, Victoria May’s work demonstrates the many ways that she is sensitive to her materials, especially when she focuses on a single medium. Wanting to use every last bit is a beautiful textile wall hanging made solely from worn, faded jeans. May has transformed rectangular cut pieces of denim into a simple, meditative tapestry that looks like it was made from samples of Japanese indigo dyed fabric, a mélange of soft blue hues. At first glance, the denim is unrecognizable, but when we become aware of the humble source of the fabric, it is eye-opening, and allows us to toggle between the material in its original context, and to its pure, abstract qualities.
May also shows three pieces made from inner tubes: Large fetish object, and Fixation, constructed from car tire inner tubes, and Inner tube study #2 (indulgent) made from bicycle inner tubes. In much the same way that she reinvents denim, these pieces also highlight the inherent properties of their material while transforming them into fluid and voluptuous shapes. Rubber, as May acknowledges in her title, has connotations with fetishes, and the larger two are as soft, layered and undulating as the smaller study is bound and restricted. And in a nicely coordinated installation decision, Wilcox’s Reconfigured May echoes the shape of neighboring Large fetish object. In Unilateral Indecision a band of fabrics spans the width of the upper canvas like sheets hanging from a clothesline. Directly underneath this straightforward patchwork of plaids, stripes and paisleys, mysterious organic shapes swell up beneath the velveteen fabric, perhaps the result of a biological process. Across the bottom, a dark band hints at a low horizon. The whole effect is very atmospheric and surreal; static, but with the possibility of growth.
Wilcox and May successfully exploit their materials to great effect while they also explore the relationship between their artworks. Whether the artists choose one material or many, our attention to the physical attributes of their art is heightened, and this awareness is really at the heart of Material Persuasions. Connections are made and details are felt. In the stillness of looking, we begin to see.