July 26-August 16, 2013
Blair Vaughn-Gruler and Oliver Polzin
Reception Friday, July 26 5:00-7:00 PM
GVG Contemporary opens ‘Dimensionality,’ an exhibition of new paintings by Oliver Polzin and Blair Vaughen-Gruler, July 26-August 16 at 202 Canyon Road in Santa Fe. A reception will be held Friday, July 26th, from 5-7pm. The first-ever focus exhibition pairing the work of Polzin and Vaughn-Gruler, ‘Dimensionality’ highlights not only confluence, but also divergence of the Santa Fe-based mother and son’s artistic concepts.
Oliver Polzin’s focus in his body of seven paintings is to explore dimensionality of remembered experience, the relationship of the mind—his own and his viewers’—to the imagined world. Inspired by video gaming as well as the natural world, he presents a collection of four small (14 x 11”) and three larger (24 x 36, 24 x 48, and 24 x 60″) paintings, each personifying an archetypal trait. The paintings address human characteristics from angelic to demonic, and also invite further thought on the number of compositions: seven colors, seven chakras, seven dimensions. Based on a layering of memories and dreams, Polzin’s representational images are colorful, illustrative, and multi-layered; they are filled with a level of detail that continues to offer new clues with each subsequent investigation. Much like the components found in video games, small objects in Polzin’s paintings such as carefully titled books, laundry under a table, an anvil on a shelf, become ‘treasures’ that lend insight to each character’s painted ‘world.’
As if to ground the fantastic in the real, Polzin sites geometry as a structural framework. The physical space of his compositions is organized on angular underpinnings, clean perspective lines, rectangular volumes. His intention is both “an acknowledgement and dissolution of three-dimensional drawing technique,” says Polzin.
About his work, he says: “These paintings are meant as a form of sympathetic magic; a set and arrangement of qualities and symbols that constellate an archetype. My use of oil paint is caught between the representative, the symbolic, and the visceral body of the medium itself. That is, always with a healthy understanding of paint as paint, and ground as ground. With that in mind, I want to explore the ways in which one can collage memories and understanding of space and time into one plane.” Polzin received his BFA in painting from Arizona State University in 2009.
Blair Vaughn-Gruler approaches the ideas of space and geometry from a contrasting perspective. Her large-scale, monochromatic, structural paintings contemplate the relationship of the physical body to the painted object, rather than the relationship of the mind to the imagined environment. Conversely to Polzin’s works, Vaughn-Gruler’s images subvert rather than build upon geometry, exploring the materiality of paint and the structure of paint as it exists when applied to a surface: “My visual vocabulary includes references to structure, repetition, deconstructed geometry, and the physical qualities of the paint itself. When I do use pictorial imagery, it’s referencing these concerns,” she says.
In a review in Modern Dallas, Todd Camplin describes it this way: “Blair Vaughn-Gruler’s paintings are very loose with reference to hard-drawn geometry, but she paints these objects in a kind of state of decay or softening. Her backgrounds are like primordial ooze giving nutrient to her organic/geometric shapes.”
Her ‘Shingle Paintings’ series brings a fascination with the geometric universe into a physically dimensional reality. Oil paint on wood or cardboard, mounted on canvas or panel, “these pieces eschew pictorial imagery in favor of allowing the materials to speak on their own.” The ‘paring down’ of these pieces often results in a limited palette of neutral colors. The white, gray, and taupe have a special richness that seems to calm the nervous system for painter and viewer alike. The Shingle Paintings range in size from a diminutive 6 x 8 inches to “Shingle Painting #58,” which is 48 x 60″ in size.
Although Vaughn-Gruler’s paintings may seem to be wholly abstract in initial impression, like Polzin’s geometric understructures, there is something else below the surface, a form of self-portraiture. Her concept is based in meditative self-reflection as well as pure materiality: “My work is grounded in an inquiry into the materiality of paint, memory, and process. To me, paint is an ointment, and I use it to mediate the space between oppositional considerations, like past and present, or remembering and forgetting. Images emerge, repeat, and forget themselves back into the paint. There are many layers…drawn, scraped, incised, and otherwise placed between layers of paint, as embodied memories. There is a sense of peering into the paint when encountering the paintings in person, and the history upon which the top layer is placed is keenly present.” She earned an MFA in Visual Art in 2010 from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BFA in Painting in 1979 from Northern Michigan University.
This mother and son duo have a shared history of exploring various artforms, from drawing to sculpture to music. The family bent for creativity doesn’t stop in the studio, though; these two can often be found in the kitchen engaging a similar dialogue and inventiveness. “We have always cooked together, having a good time inventing recipes and mixing up different ingredients,” says Polzin. Vaughn-Gruler concurs, “Cooking is a lot like painting. And in both cases, the pleasure of the process is embedded in the end result.”
From a shared history of collaborating in the kitchen while philosophizing about art and life, the artists’ individual bodies of work seem to be carrying on a conversation and ‘talking’ to each other. These two painters approach the ideas of dimensional meaning—space, geometry, and self-reflection—from distinctive yet harmonious perspectives.
‘Dimensionality,’ an exhibition of new paintings by Oliver Polzin and Blair Vaughn-Gruler, opens at GVG Contemporary from July 26 through August 16, 2013. An Opening Reception with both artists will be held Friday, July 26th, from 5 to 7pm. The first-ever focus exhibition pairing the work of Polzin and Vaughn-Gruler, ‘Dimensionality’ highlights not only confluence, but also divergence of the Santa Fe-based mother and son’s artistic concepts. GVG Contemporary is located at 202 Canyon Road in Santa Fe, open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and 11am to 5pm on Sundays. Call 505-982-1494 or visit www.gvgcontemporary.com for more information.