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Review: seven women get Unfamiliar Again at Newcomb

Work from contemporary women abstractionists appears through Dec. 23


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This Unfamiliar Again exhibition lives up to its name, but not always as one might expect. Some of the most stylistically traditional-looking works were made with some of the most high-tech techniques, and some of the most radical-looking pieces were made using the most traditional methods. Either way, this selection of recent abstract works by seven women artists from across the U.S. suggests a magical mystery tour of the myriad ways art and technology have influenced each other. They also remind us of how challenging it has become to clearly represent the "real" world in an age of slithery digital simulation and clickbait titillation.

  Among the more obviously digitally inspired works are Anne Vieux's prismatic paintings that evoke rainbow-hued mirror mazes or cosmic views of deep space in a holographic universe. Rendered on odd materials such as faux suede, works like Eclipse (pictured) create their own reality through their lyrically fluid aura of depth. Amy Ellingson's large pop abstractions recall Jean Dubuffet's bloblike modernist canvases but actually are based on manipulated digital files, just as Morgan Blair's compositions recall surreal 1970s "pattern and design" paintings, but were digitally distilled from YouTube face paint and clay animation tutorials. Rachel Beach and Alyse Rosner are inspired by wood, but Beach's abstract sculptures suggest sleekly mysterious machine parts painted in designer colors like trendy wrapping paper, whereas Rosner's paintings suggest the patterning of woodgrain and the growth rings of trees as metaphors for the densely encoded layers of digital-imaging techniques. Conversely, Brittany Nelson's darkly ethereal wall panels look futuristic but are really products of modified 19th-century photographic chemistry. Barbara Takenaga's self-described "Zen surrealist" paintings are so convincingly cosmic that they suggest light vector technology, but were crafted quite traditionally, via paint meticulously applied with brushes. As she says: "I just sit ... and wait for them to tell me what to do" as they "naturally gravitate to some kind of explosive/implosive situation."


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