Carrie Marill: “Sculptural Paintings”

at Conduit Gallery

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“Tauber-Arp,” 2016, Carrie Marill, Medium density fiber board, plaster, and acrylic paint, 20″ x 28″ x 3″
Photo: courtesy Conduit Gallery

Phoenix-based artist Carrie Marill has been working as a painter since obtaining her MFA in 2004 at Cornell University. Stylistically she has slowly progressed from the objective realm to a place more overtly informed by abstraction. The eleven intimate, small-scale examples of her work brought together by Conduit Gallery in Dallas, under the title “Sculptural Paintings,” clearly convey an interest in mining the nexus between painting and sculpture. First inspired by Jean Arp’s abstract volumetric, wall mounted forms, Marill’s work additionally comments on other artists in the cannon like Bridget Riley, Sol LeWitt and Agnes Martin, in order to take line and pattern to a deeper level that involves hand-crafted art vs. machine fabrication. The artist fabricated all of the pieces with the use of a CNC routing machine, using MDF and plaster to realize the structures designed on the 3D program Rhino, which she then sands and hand-paints. The tension that defines the work originates in her framing of the questions, “Can I make the machine made appear hand hewn? Can I make the hand made more polished?”

As a response, Martin-Wesley (2016), a trapezoidal-shaped painted sculpture with seven distinct intersecting planes, deftly shows how this challenge to meld methods turns out complex artistic forms. When viewed from the front, the piece has four planes, three of which have parallel blue and lilac stripes, hence Agnes Martin, that outwardly form two triangles which meet a horizontal row of stripes that in turn form the long end of another trapezoid at its top. These enclose a blank white trapezoidal plane, that forms the lower portion of the piece. When viewed from the side, another set of three planes that surround the perimeter further complicate the geometry, and add new depth and volume. The fusion of the painted surface elements with the volume integrates the two completely. Although a type of symmetry is active here, it is doubtful that any formulaic mathematical calculus exists to describe this visual enigma. The work was finished by hand and appears as if it was completely realized that way. Marill argues convincingly that the digital realm, in the service of painting, fails to surpass the handcrafted, and that sculpture and painting can intersect in such a way that the whole does exceed the sum of these two diverse traditions in 20th century art.