Approach the bigness

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I caught up with Alex Baker at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts the other day. Baker, Curator of Contemporary Art and overseer of PAFA’s contemporary project space, the Morris Gallery, keeps it fresh over there, which is good since upstairs, all they seem to be showing nowadays are exhibits on the American flag and portraits of George Washington. (I guess when they fill the spot left vacant by Sylvia Yount, now at the High Museum, they’ll get back in gear.)

At the moment, Los Angeles artist Monique van Genderen’s vinyl and enamel collage paintings are giving the Morris a breezy, upbeat ambiance. They work especially well with the (drumroll) shiny, brand new wood floor. Yes, the dark, green rug of yore is gone, bring on the era of Swiffer and the bright acoustics.

Baker fundraised a bunch to make the floor happen and it’s mighty fine.

Anyway, van Genderen’s mix of color, shape, line and texture give her abstract pieces great, intimate moments as well as some that are sized for a billboard above I-95.

These works are as open as the prairie. But far from feeling overbearing or oppressive, they are charmingly sly and insinuating. You accept their bigness and don’t feel squeezed by them.

If this is painting, it’s big, without being bombastic, and communicates on some human level that makes a difference. If I had to compare van Genderen with a contemporary artist, I think I’d use Jeremy Blake whose works are also paintings of a sort, and humanly approachable. (All images are from van Genderen’s PAFA wall installation. Last image is a detail.)

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