This is a story of small odysseys: George Lawson relocated his gallery from San Francisco to Los Angeles during the summer months, and opened the fall season with paintings by artist Sara Bright, who moved from San Francisco to New York during that same period. For some artists and galleries, such moves would be unsettling. For this pair, it only helped them find their footing.
The show features ten paintings — all oil on linen panels ranging in size from one foot across to almost five. The paintings are quiet and robust, alternating between figuration and abstraction (water and bridges seem to appear and disappear before my eyes in her works). They are gestural and fluid, playful but also contemplative.
“Trying to Make a Heart”
Bright’s 48″ x 54″ painting Trying to Make a Heart is particularly devastating and sweet, and among the more minimal and narrative pieces in the show. On a layered, coral background, two solitary, curled lines, one brown, the other plum, face one another but do not touch. As the title indicates, they are at a standstill, unable to entangle with one another to form a union. It is a quiet piece, and one that suggests a distant longing behind Bright’s buoyant painterly gestures.
Indeed, the more I look at Bright’s paintings, the more I understand them to be little secrets; small, mysterious roadmaps to places I have never been, but still feel uncannily familiar. The great French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud wrote, “I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.” This sentiment may be usefully applied to Bright’s collection of paintings, which together form a kind of expression for a thing difficult to articulate, navigate, or portray: The vibrancy of human feelings and interactivity in a vast, engulfing natural world. Bright’s paintings are all landscapes, though some seem to map feelings and others topography.
If gesture is one protagonist in Brights’ work, color is its equally important counterpart. In her painting titled Gust, for instance, Bright has paired rust colored pigment with a creamy white, muddled blue and a thick swath of black. The unusual color combinations feel at once subtle and shocking. Further examples of this can be found in Bright’s companion book, Sara Bright: Works on Paper, which features sixty watercolor and gouache pieces made by the artist in the last year (one gets the sense that this is an artist who never stops working). The book has an essay written by San Francisco curator Jana Blakenship, who has been involved with Bright’s work for several years, and whose essay provides considerable insight into the show. Each of these works on paper feels contained and unique; they are not studies for paintings, but substantial and alive in their own way.
Sara Bright: New Paintings runs through October 15, 2011 at the George Lawson Gallery in Los Angeles. For more information visit georgelawsongallery.com.