Verne Stanford: "Transforma" at Mill Fine Art

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Line 2-0
2012
Verne Stanford
Mixed media painting
50″ x 38″
Photo: courtesy Mill Fine Art

To view Verne Stanford’s latest body of work, collected at Mill Fine Art on Santa Fe’s Canyon Road, is to behold a world in transition–not from one concrete iteration to another, but from a collection of abstract notions and possibilities in the architect’s mind to reliable intersecting forms and lines that function in symbolic and at times contrary ways. The building blocks of Stanford’s mixed-media works on paper are photographs he’s taken of airports, suspension structures, cityscapes and rooms, each keeping the memory of itself, while creating something new in their unifying lines. The exhibition title, “Transphorma,” refers to Stanford’s interest in the formal potential of photographs as a basis for fine art. The title also seems to suggest terraformation, the process of shaping or reshaping the Earth, and presents itself as a row of windows into that transitional space. His is a decidedly urbane world, marked by travel and leisure, with the ocean holding particular meaning. A series of aerial city shots take the shape of a nautilus in Line 2.0 and Line 3.0. Linework offers the distinct impression of lying on the deck of a sailboat and looking up. And Blue Suspense acts a porthole to a distant landscape. The only image Stanford framed under Plexiglas to cut out the glare, Blue Suspense becomes richer viewed from an angle at which the surface of the Plexiglas becomes opaque, suggesting perhaps a fog has rolled in on the scene.

Yet these impressions aren’t necessarily Stanford’s objective. He very intentionally takes direction from the Dutch conceptual artist Jan Dibbets, and, to a lesser degree in this collection, Joseph Cornell, on whom he is an authority. Dibbets’ 2010 “New Horizons” exhibition at the Gladstone Gallery in New York, seems particularly relevant; in that show, the artist aligned photos of complimentary horizons, specifically prairies and oceans, with a sense of motion that occasionally inspired vertigo. Likewise, Stanford’s Air Lines presents the idea of an airport tarmac viewed through an airplane window, but the center image reverses the geometric plane, creating a dizzying circular motion. Unlike Dibbets, however, Stanford follows the lines captured by his photos onto the paper with a draftsman’s steady pen. He invites us to see differently, structurally, or, more precisely, architecturally. Even as Stanford sees the tarmac, he pulls it apart and reconnects the lines, then extends them into a space where they lose dimension. They become, again, just notions and possibilities in the architect’s mind.