Jovi Schnell: “Electric Space Gardeners” at Gregory Lind Gallery

SAN FRANCISCO

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“Wish Fullfiller,” 2015, Jovi Schnell
Acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 36″
Photo: courtesy Gregory Lind Gallery

Both in terms of scale and subject matter, the paintings in Jovi Schnell’s fourth show at Gregory Lind Gallery exude an optimistic expansiveness. The primary topic considered in these large, exuberantly painted canvases and works on paper is described as a “hybridized botanical world” of imaginary plants, where nature and technology operate hand in glove. The playful shapes of the plants are often incorporated into designs that simultaneously evoke Northern European folk art’s stylization of flowers and trees and the biomorphic abstractions of Joan Miró or Hans Arp.

Schnell’s work involves extensive research into subjects that include automatic gardens, parallel plant species, botanical folklore, herbariums, and Goethe’s ideas about the Primordial Plant. These sources are hinted at in titles like DATAHERBMATICA: 100 Uses for A Herbarium, #64 Provide Inspiration for Painters (2015). This immersive canvas (six-and-a-half by nearly five feet) places three large “plants” against a silver ground underpainted with a pumice stone medium. Schnell surrounds and connects the plants with smaller bits of botanica, colored bars and checkered grids familiar from her earlier works. An enigmatic text at the bottom edge reads “we need to talk –” suggesting either an imperative for better communication or just relating what one plant is saying to its neighbor. The contrast of matte and shiny surfaces, combined with a rich variety of textures—some, imparted by granulated pigments and the addition of pure silver flake—invite both close examination and appreciation from a distance.

Like a set of fraternal twins, Wish Fulfiller (2015) and Wisteria Well (2016) both feature cups overflowing with tiered fountains of long drop shapes, many of them filled with stylized flowers or leaves, words or symbols. A layer of smaller, brilliantly colored shapes interpolated between the white of the foreground figures and the deep black of the background adds to the sense of movement and the playfulness that characterizes Schnell’s work. These two paintings also exemplify the increasingly abstract and diagrammatic nature of Schnell’s imagery and her bold mastery of white-on-black motifs. It is in Plant Cabaret (2016), however, that her sophisticated orchestration of color is most evident: an astonishing, almost musical concatenation of complementary hues. Jagged shapes of yellow intersect with bars of violet around a conversation between various shades of orange and blue, as white blossoms and leaves dance their way across the surface in a conga line of curves, connecting the different worlds and realities of art and nature.

—MARIA PORGES