Entering Bortolami Gallery for its first show of the fall season, one is immediately greeted by a flurry of color. Bright banners hang from the ceilings, adorned with dazzling fluorescent pairings that emphasize the fragments of text that dot each piece, and which find a fitting counterpoint in a ring of framed pieces encircling the gallery walls. The pieces are the product of artist Renée Green, whose body of new works returns to an ongoing interest in the concept of color and language, text and space, perception and understanding. Spanning the artist’s three decades of working with color’s polyvalent effects, the works in Excerpts manifest her open-ended questioning of invented yet established taxonomies, in order to play with and to displace designations that may seem to be known.
For the exhibition, Green presents two recent Space Poems, a series of works which expand and contract language and color in order to facilitate its exploration over space and time. Green’s 2020 work, Space Poem #7 (Color Without Objects: Intra-Active May-Words) hangs above, while a reprised piece, Space Poem #2 (Laura’s Words) (2011/2020), a colorful silkscreen suite, surrounds the gallery perimeter. Invoking the words of poets May Swenson and Laura Riding Jackson, both Space Poems unfold a series of linguistic collisions punctuated by Green’s spatial and chromatic operations. Indicating the artist’s ongoing methodology of transmutation and translation, the exhibition also includes two early works, Color / No Color (1990) and Colour Games (1989). In each, the artist’s use of language and its relation to the construction of the canvas is prioritized. Language seems to make space for the colors on each work, and draws the work together as a sort of negotiation between image and form, the various interplays of text from banner to banner giving themselves up to a cohesive, yet often overwhelming pictorial whole.
The categories to which these artworks refer slide between their definitions, exceeding their own delimits in the process of attempting to define their forms. Green’s early paintings in the exhibition seek to dismantle an understanding of color as “natural,” in turn revealing the concept to be a pretext for ever pervasive ideological constructs, but at the same time, as an excellent vehicle for the artist’s poetic imaginings and thought. Yet the works also function as a totality, a space given over to alternating speeds of perception and cognition, the direct sensations of color, and slower, creeping understanding of text. Taken together, the space presents a shifting sense of time and movement as condensed into the framework of a poetic thread.
The show closes October 31st.
— D. Creahan
Excerpts at Bortolami [Exhibition Site]