What I like best about the art that is often called “minimalist” is that when it’s done with commitment and devotion, intellect and compassion, there’s nothing simple about it. A painting that — to paraphrase Seinfeld — is about nothing becomes about so much more. It transcends subject matter and transforms into a statement on the mysterious, miraculous nature of art itself. It’s about its color, its shape, its texture, its history, its relation to similar paintings, its installation in a gallery and more.
The installation of eight Glaze Paintings by Marcia Hafif, on display at Brighton’s U-turn Art Space now through Feb. 26, has that salutary effect. These paintings, spaciously separated by the gallery’s white walls, are each small, perfect squares (12 by 12 inches). And each is one singular color, without an image — “Indian Yellow,” “Cobalt Blue,” Cobalt Violet” and so forth. Each is hung about a half foot higher than where U-turn normally hangs art, which is maybe what gives them such an iconic effect. Overall, it turns the storefront gallery at 2159 Central Ave. into a kind of art sanctuary, a place to meditate on color and its reflective qualities.
The term “glaze” means, in this show’s context, that the pigment has been thinned with oil and turpentine to make it paler.
The colors are neither shiny nor reflectively bright. They do not glitter or pop out like reflective tape. Rather, they have a centered, calming flatness. As you get up close, you start to see inside the color. You can see the whiteness behind it, and the fascinating markings — small intersecting brushstrokes, perhaps — upon which a seemingly monochromatic painting is based. The whole show serves as a lesson in the complexity of art and how painting appreciation isn’t about appreciation of the subject so much as it’s about appreciating a painting as an object.
It’s actually quite a coup for U-turn to have this show. Hafif, who is just over 80 and based in New York and California, has been showing internationally since 1964. Her Web site lists dozens of gallery and museum shows, from Rome and Paris to La Jolla and Santa Fe.
Her Glaze Paintings have a long history, going back to 1972 — the ones at U-turn were created 1995-1997. Like a yogi working at mastering meditation, she works at perfecting this vision.
The idea for this show came from Matt Morris, an artist and co-founder of the nonprofit U-turn as well as a CityBeat contributor. As a student at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, he once delivered an oral report on Hafif’s work. As he explained in a written statement, “We were interested in approaching paintings as objects, rather than as windows into illusory spaces. We decided to contact Marcia at the outset of curating an exhibition to gauge what her interest would be in participating. Our correspondence went very well and she has been enthusiastic.”U-turn is using the coup of this show to plan a fund-raising benefit from 7-10 p.m. on Feb. 19 to offset the costs of operating the space. A buffet-style dinner, the cost will be $10 at the door and there will be beer available for sale. Meanwhile, the space is open noon-4 p.m. Saturdays through the Feb. 26. Be sure to go. It’s an important show. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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