Jennifer Wolf: “Edge of Miscibility”

at William Turner Gallery

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“Speed of Sight,” 2015, Jennifer Wolf
Natural dyes, mordants, acrylic medium on canvas over panel, 42″ x 84″
Photo: courtesy William Turner Gallery

Jennifer Wolf is a connoisseur of color. Her work reflects a commitment to the natural world, both in her use of media and the nuanced forms that seem to materialize organically inside her compositions. As part of her allegiance to nature, the artist eschews commercial paint, instead creating her own, with pigments harvested from the source. Wolf’s artistic process involves a considerable knowledge of science-particularly chemistry. As part of her practice, she grinds pigments from raw minerals collected on hiking expeditions and mixes them with acrylic medium to create her own signature colors. In her new show and series, “Edge of Miscibility,” the purity of natural pigments radiates from the surface. (The dictionary defines “Miscibility” as “the property of substances to mix in all proportions, forming a homogeneous solution. Most often applied to liquids.”) Connected by a strong continuity of palette, the paintings are vibrant with color. Propelling the series are two historically significant pigments, cochineal from the shell of a beetle, and indigo, from a plant, both sourced from a master dyer in Oregon. The artist processes the pigments to create dyes for staining the canvas. The indigo pigment produces a brilliant blue. When the cochineal comes into contact with mordants, it produces a range of colors from pink to red and almost black. The pigments are also mixed with acrylic medium for subsequent painted layers. Included in the palette is a single mineral based pigment, orange ochre the artist collected in the Luberon region of France.

The paintings are luminescent, pervaded with liquid essence and light. Dramatic in scale, larger than much of her previous work, these abstractions are comprised of cascading translucent color. Flowing with movement and occasional light texture, they demonstrate Wolf’s control–mastery–of the liquid poured medium. In subtle contrast to the flowing washes of color, is the added surprise of interspersed angular forms reminiscent of rock formations. The last layer, almost a glaze, ripples across the surface, leaving behind sections in a sort of honeycomb pattern. Large surface areas appear to be slick, almost reflective, as if viewing form and color through a veil of water. In Law of Gravitas (2015), the shapes are more discreet, with distinct areas of color delineated across the horizontal plane of the canvas. Shapes in crimson, indigo, red-orange and a mottled red-blue-black, appear in the foreground, as if pouring out of the frame, like a multi-colored waterfall of pure brilliant color.