The edge of geometric abstraction at LGTripp – Paul Rider, Charles Kalick and Ryan Pellak


Exploring the edges of geometric abstraction in photography, paint, and yarn, Paul Rider, Charles Kalick, and Ryan Pellak energize LGTripp Gallery, in a show organized by gallerist Luella Tripp.

Ambiguous space
Paul Rider’s large black and white digital prints of carefully lit, torn scraps of paper are like whispers, yet they dominate the front room. The minimal, formal and dramatic photographic works could be in an even larger space without losing any of their impact.

“Drawn to the Light 18,” one of the strongest photographs, balances two vast and indefinite spatial backgrounds divided by a torn edge of paper that runs diagonally through the composition. A perpendicular shadow transforms random light and dark effects into multiple planes.

My eye travels along the jagged tear, connecting the edge with either of the two backgrounds and I become increasingly disoriented, since both choices are convincing yet mutually exclusive. The truth of this space eludes me and I yield and enjoy a groundless, empty world of air and shadows.

Rider manages light, edge, composition, and scale with a stage-set designer’s sensibility. He shoots his pure white paper scraps (one foot or smaller) with a view camera in a very shallow depth of field. He says he is interested in paper’s ability to hold or reflect light, and he controls the light in his set-up to get a wide range of black to grey tones. Printing with Piezography inks, carbon-based inks that mimic etching ink, the artist gets a super-dark, rich matte finish that is as delicate as it is beautiful.

Built paintings

Charles Kalick’s paintings are sculptural and grid-based; their edges are both built and drawn into paint. Colorful, textured squares and rectangles rise above or recede into the picture plane; each painting is a collection of mini-paintings assembled into a complex three-dimensional equation. Cast shadows and inconsistent edges entertain me, and I feel like I’m a kid in a cupcake parlor, it’s my birthday, and the frosted tops are iced to perfection.

Recently, Kalick has started adding sticks, stones, clay, papier-mâiché, and sawdust to his paint, building even richer, slathered-on treats. Painted and etched lines inside the forms echo the actual edges, making mini-paintings within mini-paintings within the larger whole. Working in series of theme and color, the artist composes sections into pathways that direct the eye, so that unification of the whole trumps attachment to any single gem of sensual experience.

Yarn is cheaper than paint

Ryan Pellak is a young, emerging artist who has just graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He told me he started working with yarn because he couldn’t afford to buy paint; also it’s a quick, portable, and novel way to draw taut lines and edges.

Yarn, fabric, and other sewing materials have been popular with artists for several years as part of the Do-It-Yourself movement. The artist drives metal wire into the wall, bends it to a desired angle, and then wraps layer after layer of a bright colored yarn until he has a polygon of about 4-6 inches deep formed from tilted planes. The variously colored shapes weave together at points of overlap, creating a sprawling wall sculpture.

Pellak demonstrates strength in geometry, design, and activation of visual space. For this show he has made two versions of each wall piece. The second piece was woven then partially dismantled and allowed to fall away from its moorings, registering the playful effect of gravity and the pervasiveness of entropy.

I was struck by the unique way each artist relates to edge or limit within the composition. Rider’s rough edges frame ambiguity, creating deep imaginary space. Kalick’s smooth, straight edges frame complex surfaces, signaling abrupt changes in mood and texture without calling attention to their presence. By linking empty polygons with three-dimensional sides, Pellak emphasizes a drawn but thick edge. The edge is peripheral in the case of Rider and Kalick, it limits or contains, and creates meaning. On the other hand, Pellak focuses on the edge as a thing itself.

Elizabeth Johnson moved from San Francisco to Easton, PA to paint and live more cheaply. She writes about artists from Philadelphia, New York and the Lehigh Valley.


charles long, LGTripp Gallery, paul rider, ryan pellak



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