Art Spiel in Dialogue with Alyssa E. Fanning on Blue in Green
Platform Project Space, a Dumbo art venue geared to support curatorial projects by artists and independent curators, features the group exhibition “Blue in Green”, curated by artist and curator Alyssa E. Fanning. The show features paintings and drawings by 13 artists: Eric Wolf, Lee Lee Walker, Emma Tapley, Barbara Takenaga, James Siena, Alexander Ross, Joey Parlett, Andy Mister, Daniel Herwitt, Elliott Green, Nancy Goldring, Alyssa E. Fanning and Alec Dartley. Alyssa E. Fanning shares with Art Spiel her background, the art venue, and her premise for this show.
AS: Tell me a bit about your background and the genesis of your curatorial project, Blue in Green
AF: I’m a visual artist working primarily in drawing and painting. Much of my work investigates both real and imagined landscapes, manmade disasters, disasters of the mind, the aftermath of disasters, and possible utopian futures. I began curating in 2008 as a way to work with other artists I admired. Blue in Green grew out of a landscape exhibition that I curated in a studio I shared on Eagle Street in Greenpoint in 2015 titled Earth Dreams, which showcased artists exploring space and ways of seeing and interpreting the natural world.
Blue in Green springs from my continuing fascination with the myriad ways artists approach the concept of “landscape.” The title of the exhibition comes from the jazz song “Blue in Green,” which is featured on Miles Davis’ seminal 1959 album “Kind of Blue”. In doing research for the show I read that in a 2006 NPR interview on the occasion of Davis’ eightieth birthday, writer and poet Quincy Troupe discussed “Blue in Green.” He said that in writing the song, Davis sought to express a memory from his childhood summers in Arkansas. Davis was trying to get back to feelings he experienced as a six-year-old, walking home from church with his cousin, through dark back roads and overhearing notes of gospel tunes through the trees. Troupe described “Blue in Green” as aching, plaintive and evoking the loneliness of the dusty road through the woods, the darkness, and memories. The concept of memory and an effort to evoke the essence of a place once seen, lived in, or imagined pervade the exhibition “Blue in Green”.
AS: You write in your introduction to the exhibition that “the phrase blue in green infers an act of searching – such as concentrating on finding the primary hue of blue within the secondary color green.” Can you elaborate on that?
AF: The title alludes to the manner in which the artists perceive the spaces and places they depict. The phrase blue in green infers an act of searching and a way of studying and investigating. As soon as we recognize the blue in the green, we acknowledge the composite – we identify the relationship between the parts and the whole. Each element of a landscape is replete with possibilities, which the thirteen artists in the exhibition focus on and weave together in startling and modern ways.
AS: You also refer to memory and the essence of place. Can you elaborate on that?
AF: Several of the artists in the exhibition deal with the role of memory in their work. In Lee Lee Walker’s ink paintings landscape is a vehicle to access memories and impressions of places once seen and loved: her childhood garden lit by the moon’s rays or a view of the street from her window when the quality of light and atmosphere was irresistible. Her urgent ink marks suggest a sense of longing to connect with trees, sky and the energy of life.
Nancy Goldring’s “foto-projections” present landscape as manipulations of images of specific sites and the way they change over time. In her “Sunflowers: Broken Landscape“, we see a view from the artist’s studio overlooking Lake Trasimeno in Tuscany. The scene of fields of sunflowers beneath vibrant blue skies is fragmented and reconstructed – parts of the landscape are blackened silhouettes and parts are overlaid with cast shadows of trees and architecture that we cannot see. She is looking beyond the surface of flowers and grass to the history of the space – its agrarian past, its occupants and caretakers, like an archaeologist on a dig. Her spaces are filled with layered memories.
For artist Eric Wolf the world is a surface of undulating waves and ripples set against sky and silhouettes of distant mountains. Color does not feature in the reality of Wolf’s ink paintings. He presents a world in black, white and rich grays as if to say color gets in the way of pure experience. We see in his work a synthesis of his understanding of the natural world, where bands of black against white describe the continuous dance of the tides across ancient glacial lakes. He has distilled a pure extraction of natural phenomenon.
AS: Please briefly describe the featured drawings and paintings.
AF: The artists in “Blue in Green” take landscape as a starting point for making. Emma Tapley’s paintings explore the minute and the vast in her intimately grand odes to fields of grass and clover. As if seen on a walk through the park the humble patch of grass in her painting “Cultivating the Empty Field” contains all the complex wonder of the mountainside. Each blade of grass has its own gesture and sway. What another artist might paint with a few quick dashes of thin green marks, Tapley transforms into a world of complexity and wonder, acknowledging that we can’t have a field of grass without countless individual blades.
In Barbara Takenaga’s work we are presented with what the artist refers to as space-scapes. As we look at her canvases, we see distinct modes of image-making: there are washy fields of dripped paint that resemble organic forms and hard-edge linear bands of mark-making. These bands resemble rings inside a geode, or the cross section of an old tree trunk filled with age rings. The artist begins these works by laying down paint in a method she describes as faux abstract expressionism by applying drips and pours which serve as the basis of her composition. The resulting splatters and splashes become fields of stars, cosmic galaxies and layers of atmosphere. She looks at the accidental and finds meaning.
In Alexander Ross’s “Upward Cascade I“, fantastical loops and vines band together – appearing to work in unison as they wrap around their hearty base. Are we looking at a huge mythical beanstalk rising up, up into the sky or at a small sprout viewed through the eyes of an insect? In either scenario Ross’s greenish formation that flows and bulges upward appears both beautiful and grotesque. Upon close observation we see that the shallow shadows of the veiny formations are comprised of myriad pencil marks – a network of marks emerge across his surfaces.
AS: Tell me a bit about Platform Project Space.
AF: Platform Project Space was established by artist Elizabeth Hazan in the spring of 2018. Elizabeth started the project space to support fellow artists and independent curatorial projects. She’s presented solo exhibitions of work by artists Nancy Diamond and Jennifer Sirey and has showcased group exhibitions by artist-curators Jennifer Coates, Phil Knoll and Sue Muskat, Patrick Neal and Alexi Worth. Platform has a great lineup of exhibitions planned for 2020 so stay tuned!
AS: Would you like to share some of your upcoming projects?
AF: Artist and writer Patrick Neal and I are hosting an artist panel in conjunction with “Blue in Green” at Platform Project Space on January 2 where we’ll discuss concepts behind the exhibition with a group of participating artists from the show.
In 2020 I’m planning to focus more exclusively on my own studio work. Right now I’m developing a series of pencil on linen pieces that are an outgrowth of the colored pencil on paper works I have included in Blue in Green. Participating artist Joey Parlett and I are also discussing curatorial ideas for the new year—more details to come!
Blue in Green Runs through Jan 4th, 2020
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