Blair Jones

A Trifecta of Talent
Studio J
Los Ranchos, NM

art review ABQ, 2017, Vol 2, p. 2-3

Any fan of abstract expressionism should make a point of seeing “Trifecta: Three Women Painters” this month in Los Ranchos, NM. The three native New Mexicans — Nance McManus, Sarah Anderson, and Nina Adkins — paint together regularly at Studio J, a lovely space in Los Ranchos that doubles as studio and gallery. Dedicated to abstract expressionism, the three artists have discovered that working side-by-side in acrylic enhances their artistic process and produces better work, according to Sarah Anderson.

Although all 3 artists work in acrylic and stick to abstract expressionism, each body of work is stylistically unique. McManus, for example, uses accents of swirled, metallic gold paint strips to cut across a sea of tumbling turquoise, indigo and cobalt blue shapes in her non-objective piece, “Primarily” (24” x 20,” acrylic). The artist’s dramatic, juxtaposed vertical and horizontal brushstrokes are clearly visible, drawing the viewer’s eye all around the canvas. Blue and violet organic shapes in varying sizes overlap and cover the canvas, evoking visions of sea or sky, or both, with a gold and red sunset strip separating the two. What’s important about this piece is that it is what the viewer sees in it. One viewer might see a landscape of vistas while another, waves crashing against tall cliffs. Whatever the interpretation, McManus succeeds in evoking movement and mystery contrasted with warm stability. Although her pieces appear carefully composed, she tends to complete most of her paintings in one go, due to the spontaneous nature of abstract expressionism.

Sarah Anderson’s paintings are, according to her artist statement, an extension of herself and the way she sees the world. She strives to create a visual dialogue between herself and the viewer through her paintings. Drawing on her extensive figure painting background, Anderson’s soft, supple lines and curvilinear brushwork in “Bouquet” (24”x18,” acrylic) and “Poppies in the Wind” (20”x16,” acrylic) exquisitely, if not entirely non-objectively, depict petals and stems of floral arrangements. Of greater interest to this viewer, however, is her gorgeous Downtown (21”x17,” acrylic), a truly non-objective rendering of converging and intersecting lines, geometric shapes, and structural patterns in high and low value shades of blue, lavender, and green. Black, blurred shapes indicative of shadows echo the varying shapes, causing delightful tension in perspective that seems to be simultaneously an aerial view and a street view of the same cityscape. The repetitive lines, dots, and patterns portray windows, train tracks and roads, while the value effects, and hard-to-soft edges of line and shape depict the diffused aura of street lighting at night. There is only enough visual information to evoke a nighttime city intersection; the rest of the scene is for the viewer to determine in their mind’s eye. Anderson’s mastery of light and variation are what make her paintings successful.

The highlight of the show, Nina Adkins’s Tango (42”x42,” multi media), succeeds on many levels. First, her energetic mark-making with large and small brushes give this painting the charisma and thrill that its title deserves. The painting is almost entirely red, but interesting areas of pale yellow, hot pink, magenta and spring green draw the viewer in. On the left side of canvas she has subtly collaged pieces of printed paper, placed askew, that read “I’m happy when I’m dancing,” “Nothing hurts when you dance,” and “TANGO.” The text, partially obscured by layers of paint, appears to be secret thoughts of a couple whom the artist has outlined in thin black ink on the right side. Held in a dance-embrace, this couple is clearly caught up in a moment of lusty, intimate bliss on the dance floor. What makes Tango fabulous is that from a distance the abstract shapes and diagonal placement of vibrant, hot colors wordlessly elicit passion and elation from the viewer, which are bolstered by a closer look and a revelation of the dance at hand (and foot).

To see this Trifecta of talent, be sure to stop by Studio J (6601 Fourth Street NW, Ste. K-L, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM 87107) before the show ends December 9. For hours, call Janet Bothne at (310)666-1944.

Heather Blair Jones