Material Limits

March 3 – April 22
Sponsored by Chuck & Robbie Breaux

At least 500 years of western Art History is based on illusion. From the early Renaissance to beyond Impressionism, artists used the materials they had at hand to represent something else, whether a religious scene or dappled light on a harbor. Rumblings in this breakdown of the pursuit of illusion began in the 19th century with artists like Edouard Manet and continued in the early 20th with works like Kazimir Malevich’s suprematist paintings. Yet even in the gestural paintings of the Abstract Expressionists, the composition’s subject matter is still separate and apart from the materials being used.

Consider Jackson Pollock’s action paintings. Pollock laid these canvases without a stretcher board on the floor of his studio and moved around them, splattering them with paint as he went. There is no illusion in that the compositions do not depict recognizable forms. But they do depict movement, emotional states, and the artist’s presence. In this way they are still representing something. The act of painting is the content, and the paint itself is merely a vehicle.

Now consider Enveloped by Blue by Sara Ransford, pictured on the right. The way the clay bends and folds, appears as a two-dimensional pattern from some angles and a three-dimensional texture from others, the way the thin slab and tubes intersect and interact—these phenomena all help compose the work’s subject matter, and all relate directly to the materiality of clay itself.

This exhibition asks: what happens when the medium not only informs the content, it is the content? What does it mean for a work of art to have its medium also be its subject? The artists in Material Limits explore these questions in their work, to different ends. Some stretch the physical constraints of their medium—flexing wood, hinging stone, creating impossible and contradictory surfaces in clay. Others challenge the border separating two- and three-dimensional art. Sculptural paintings, painterly sculptures, fibrous ceramics, and even works of poetry that stretch the limits of what the written word can accomplish are some of what you can expect to see.


Participating artists: Mark Bueno, Susan Delgalvis, Cynthia Duff, Michael Kruger, Jack Mueller, Lyle Nichols, Kyounghwa Oh, Sara Ransford

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