KAREN McCLANAHAN: Stacks

“Stacks”, 2012, Plus Gallery Exhibition view

About the Exhibition

The title Stacks has many associations: among others, it suggests the broad context of a library: books, order, indexing, and the self-referentiality of the former index card system. For the purposes of the exhibition it refers to how geometric fields were painted in the new body of work stacked and overlapping one another. It relates to the look of the compositions defined geometric shapes stacked one upon the other. And it alludes to the horizontal lines stacked one above the other in the multi panel work Sequential Chroma Loop 9. The SCL9 accompanying book is a literal stack of individual pages housed in an archival box.

The new works in Stacks are continuations of concepts and methods that have been my focus for years: repetition, self-referentiality, color, pentimento, and hard-edged compositions that pair curvilinear shapes with crisply defined geometric spaces. These concepts and methods continue to evolve, and for this exhibition I have chosen three groups of work that directly address these ongoing ideas.

Utilizing paintings, thread drawings and a color-driven multi-panel piece, the works take their cue from my 2005 body of mixed media thread drawings where thread was sewn directly into and around the side of the paper creating parallel lines which appear both as texture and subtle fields of color. These lines appear again in the 2012 work in the form of fields of stripes, horizontal lines and delicate single lines. The new work has a focus on color relationships, yet like most of my earlier paintings they maintain a reductive complex composition that hints at something outside of itself multiple shifting spatial perspectives, landscape or architectonic spaces.

The specific curvilinear shape is still present in the new works, though it is less of an anthropomorphic protagonist than it was in earlier paintings. It is an essential element and is pared down to a soft hand painted edge of a geometric field, or a jagged edge.

Pentimento is more direct in the new paintings. What was once a line buried under paint due to a decision made and then rejected, the pentimenti in the new works is more of a textural map that reveals the order in which the individual geometric fields were painted.

The multi-panel piece Sequential Chroma Loop 9 is a series of 9 small panels that focuses on color relationships. Utilizing my subjective color choices, and hand mixed hues, each small panel consists of a background color which contains a smaller interior square of a different hue. Lines are masked off and painted over this interior field to create a small section of stacked horizontal lines. The line color in one piece then becomes the background color in the subsequent panel. Ground color moves to line color, line color moves to ground color and so on, thus whether viewed walking from left to right or from right to left the color travels from piece to piece. Any panel can be the starting piece; as long as they stay in sequential order, the color will progress and loop infinitely.

A hand painted book accompanies the SCL9 piece that consists of individual unbound pages. On each page is a three-inch square that is an exact match of the interior square of two color horizontal lines. The book pages come in an archival box in a stack of nine pages. A custom aluminum display easel also accompanies the book allowing three book pages to be displayed at a time.

Thread drawings inspired by the 2005 body of work will also be on view for Stacks. Comprised of minimal color compositions with a thread field, they too are displayed on simple aluminum easels. The repetition of the thread lines speak to lines of color; color travels from piece to piece and stacked forms lie buried under layers of lines which refer right back to the fields of thread.

- Karen McClanahan, 2012