Eva Struble: “Produce,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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Lemondrop
2014
Acrylic, paper and screen print on wood panel
65″ x 46″
Photo copyright: Eva Struble, courtesy of the artist

“Produce” is the first West Coast exhibition for Eva Struble, who received an MFA in painting from Yale and currently teaches at SDSU. Since moving to San Diego, Struble introduced silk-screen and paper collage to her lush color saturated landscapes addressing Southern California’s agricultural industry. Tapping into the Pattern and Decoration movement-textiles taken from the regional origins of migrant farm workers are incorporated into Struble’s paintings merging aesthetic pleasure with socio-environmental content. Lemondrop (all works cited 2014) balances texture and color by combining brushwork with silk-screened lace, infusing an abstract landscape with the culture of individuals working its agricultural environment. With its fiery orange, pinks, and bright green, Lemondrop seems playful, yet a purple strand of barbed wire cuts across the upper left corner of the canvas. Without the text or Struble’s video interview accompanying the exhibition the barbed wire could easily be overlooked. One wouldn’t necessarily take away social meaning from Lemondrop unless encouraged by outside sources-raising the question of how to experience Struble’s paintings. Lemondrop provides a space for viewers to escape into a world of visual stimulation, but the hint of lace and barbed wire tells a deeper story of the laborers who work these produce farms.

Although Irrigation Pond represents one of the larger works in the exhibition taking up an entire wall, the color palette is more subdued with thick layers of serene blue and green, contrasted with bright yellow done in an almost post-impressionist manner. Irrigation Pond lends itself to a meditative tranquil experience, yet the surface is a bit too seductive when reminded of the reality of migrant workers. Pauma Rocks, with its mix of brushwork, decorative pattern, and natural detail, challenges the flat surfaces often associated with pop culture and contemporary art through its use of complex layers. Patterned stones possessing dark recesses encourage one to take the time to explore the full effect of the detailed landscape.

Struble’s rich paintings reveal a voracious appetite for color and pattern, though on occasion tipping the scale to visual overload. As a body of work her diverse experimentation renders otherworldly landscapes rooted in deceivingly tangible realities. Struble paints a stage for viewers to construct their own narrative, but one that requires negotiation with the artist’s vision propelling us to look closer at our physical environment and how our daily food makes its way to our table.