Reimagining lines – Ruth Scott Blackson’s woven, drawn, and manufactured pieces

The simplest ideas are often the strongest, Ruth Scott Blackson says of her artistic approach. And several works in her exhibition Line After Line, up now at 110 Church Gallery, show just how rich the results of a humble inspiration can be. Some of Blackson’s drawings, weavings, collages and objects resemble the complex Op art of Philadelphia’s Edna Andrade, while others have the labor-intensive heft of a Vija Celmins  piece, but Blackson’s works possess a playful spirit that is all her own, and which may come from her background in performance and video art.

 Alphabet Book, gloss paper/accordion binding. Each “page” is made up of letters cut out from magazines, in alphabetical order.
Alphabet Book, gloss paper/accordion binding. Each “page” is made up of letters cut out from magazines, in alphabetical order.
Black Mass, black ballpoint pen on drawing paper.
Black Mass, black ballpoint pen on drawing paper
Stitch, embroidery thread on silk dupion
Stitch, embroidery thread on silk dupion

A bookbinder by trade, Blackson has recently begun to move away from performance art and to focus on drawing and object-making.  In “Line After Line,” instead of using color as the motivation for pattern-making, Blackson uses texture and surface to provide visual cues that let the viewer’s eye make connections and designs within her works.

Colorgraph, colored construction paper on graph paper
Colorgraph, colored construction paper on graph paper
Colorgraph, detail
Colorgraph, detail

Her hypnotic Colorgraph (above) was inspired by its medium – transparent blue-lined draftsman paper. Blackson was drawn to the dense grid of light blue lines, and turned the paper into the backdrop for a color grid of tiny cut-out squares. The order of colors is the same order the sheets of construction paper were in when she first opened the pack. But within this ordered plan, human error inevitably crept in, and the long ripples visible in the design where the entire pattern was shifted by a few out-of-order squares are oddly rewarding.

Yellow Weave, yellow polymer paper ribbon
Yellow Weave, yellow polymer paper ribbon
Yellow Weave, detail
Yellow Weave, detail

Another piece partly created by chance, Yellow Weave (above) was intended to be a square, symmetrical weaving. Instead, as soon as the piece was completed and removed from her loom, the thin threads of polymer paper ribbons which make up the woven piece pulled and contorted themselves into a new, unplanned and irregular shape. While the delicate material gives the piece a wispy, lighter-than-air quality, the work’s unplanned asymmetrical strangeness is the source of all the meditative, visual depth that makes it successful.

Black Books, black ballpoint on Punjabi tear-off calendar
Black Books, black ballpoint on Punjabi tear-off calendar

Blackson’s recent works in Line After Line show her mining rich material and producing works that simultaneously hearken back to the pattern drawings of Sol Lewitt and the piecework assemblages of El Anatsui, albeit on a much smaller scale. With chance parodoxically playing a strong part in these precise pieces, Blackson’s designs have an exciting unpredictability that could be pushed even further. But in a mark-making practice that denotes the artist’s presence, the personal narrative behind the works may be something that needs to become more visible.

All photography by Jaime Alvarez

Line after Line, featuring the works of Ruth Scott Blackson, will be up at 110 Church Gallery through Nov. 23. Blackson’s work is up now alongside that of her fellow Grizzly Grizzly gallery members in “B-Sides” at Rebekah Templeton Gallery. The opening reception for “B-Sides” will be held on Thursday, Nov. 14, from 6 to 9 p.m..

Tags

110 church gallery, bookbinding, collage, drawing, embroidery, line after line, optical art, ruth scott blackson, weaving

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