“The World is Flat, Not Round”

at Phil Space

“Magneto (Painting Machine),” 2016, James Hart, Oil on linen, 30″ x 28″
Photo: courtesy Phil Space

A pluralistic plethora of modes and styles proliferates, the art world decentralizes, anything goes, and a post-colonialist opposition to social or aesthetic hierarchy is the call of the avant-garde. Curator and painter Tim Jag could couch his career as being driven by a desire to democratize Modernism. From his energetic early performances in a bright orange construction jumpsuit, to his longstanding participation in local art yard sales, the everyman stands at the center of his artistic persona. To this end, he recently brought together a vibrant seven-artist spectrum of New Mexico painters/picture-makers at Phil Space for “The World is Flat, Not Round.”

With typical post-modern irony, most of the work here (Jag’s grid of subdued paintings are no exception) push flatness to produce space. Erin Elder’s simple hand-drawn geometries, like dressed-down Frank Stellas, excellently exploit overlap, the first way that space emerges from flatness. James Hart’s program paintings are another primary example. Loading each individual brushstroke with a highlight, mid, and dark tone, in vibrant chromatics, and carefully applying them to cover the surface of the canvas is the totality of his technique. Magneto (Painting Machine) emerges from a Perceptualist’s Op Art dream as the tonal values produce shifting illusionistic results, depending upon how the brushstrokes are turned and arranged to become optically more than the sum of their parts. Ted Laredo comes at similar territory from a different direction with his sparkly monochromes in applied micro-beads of glass. The reserved and Ryman-esque Reflection of the Immaterial IV has Group Zero echoes, and offers a soothing, silver sensation. Jen Pack’s stitched and stretched fabric (quilted) collages on trapezoidal frames balance perfectly between object and image. Untitled (Multitrapezoid Patchwork) is a beautifully warped version of Paul Klee’s Magic Squares. Jeff Kahm, the most established, and lucidly abstract, artist of the group shows a single stripe painting, setting a blue orange complement, beside a black and white figure-ground suggestion, while Heidi Pollard and Jamie Brunson explore more emotive abstraction through gesture, and hard-edged graphic forms respectively, all demonstrating that prime painterly paradox: flat is still phat.