Subscribe Today!

The complex and ambiguous ‘Ponderable Path’ at Cerulean Gallery

Corey Qureshi reviews a three-person exhibit at Cerulean Arts, saying that the works take you "down any number of undefined paths," suggesting that if you have some time to ponder it is worth your while to do so. The exhibit is up to Feb. 25, 2024, so hurry on over!

A colorful painting is filled with layers upon layers of patterned imagery, some of it opaque, allowing under coats to appear and some transparent. The patterned imagery is in the background and in circles and circles within circles.
Robert Reinhardt, What Lies Beneath, monoprint collage, 12″ x 12”. Courtesy Cerulean Arts

Cerulean Arts’s latest exhibition A Ponderable Path explores mainly open-ended paths of seeing scenes and timelines. Art from Robert Reinhardt, Sam Jones, and Ryan Ward line the walls of Cerulean’s front gallery, taking the viewer down any number of undefined paths. In line with the gallery’s namesake (cerulean) and the current time of year, the whole show has a bundled up, wintry feel. Even the brightness here feels muted.

Robert Reinhardt‘s process-heavy pieces take the viewer through overlapping layers of pieces of monoprints. These carefully cut and placed bits of image bring cobwebby, wallpaperish textures amid repeated disturbances of any stable impression the eye could make. The most consistent thing here could be the circles that flow out as though their patterns are rain drops dripping onto the surface of the image one at a time. Imagining these variously chaotic, hardly harmonious bits stacked atop one another is the best way I could acclimate myself. It’s like curtains revealing different moments are pulled back over and over, without a true destination. I wonder if going larger would produce a more bodily effect in the bits of motion implied in the rain drops I mentioned. I find Reinhardt’s work to be so much about the act of making the pictures themselves that the results leave me cold in all cases.

A bright colored painting with small, noodle-like elbows and other curved shapes hover above larger curved noodles and other biomorphic shapes of different colors. The world created is lumpy, with paint applied thickly.
Sam Jones, Hypomania, oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″ Courtesy Cerulean Arts

Also dwelling in ambiguity yet approaching more figurative anchors, Sam Jones‘s thick color-centrism elicits involuntarily emotional responses. You can’t help but to feel a way about “Night Shade” with its large eggplant purple form. The shape, the movement of the unclassifiable form makes the oil painting feel much larger than it really is. You go from confusion to enjoyment of its roundness that hints at any number of tangible forms. This piece opened up all of his work to me, presented a new way to see them.

And while three of his other paintings continue on in these near-object thicknesses, “Logos” is an interesting departure. The splattered, primordial soupiness is full of protruding instances of memory that only make themselves apparent after you’ve spent time letting them come to you. Animal-like figures, gesturing limbs, bits of solid ground, backgrounds. This is a personal perspective-heavy painting. Like all of Jones’s work in A Ponderable Path, you make your own way.

A collage painting in two parts divided vertically down the middle shows on the left a suggestion of an architectural model, with a big white space into which straight lines suggesting walls and other partitions have been drawn. On the right, it seems to be a figure in an interior.
Ryan Ward, When Nobody Got Twisted, acrylic, oil & paper on panel, 13″ x 14″ Courtesy Cerulean Arts

Lastly is Ryan Ward‘s work. The press materials say he “makes no distinction between recognizable and non-imagery[…]”. I could see it, but I think there’s always a trace of the tangible in his weirdnesses. Take “There’s Construction on King’s Highway.” This small, horizontal schematic shows two versions of generally the same tunnel/highway. While it’s unclear if we’re seeing before/after or two different possibilities of the titular construction, we’re definitely looking at a type of path. I will say, Ward is doing that thing where the title elucidates the picture.

“When Nobody Got Twisted” carries this schematic concern into what I can only assume is a home of sorts. On a panel split down the middle, the grungy chaos hints at a non-linear timeline of lives lived across patterned floors with hands gesturing for memories that’ve been torn up and out of the image. It almost feels like a squat house with its past in various states of degradation. A window looks out from or in on the stacked disharmonies. The mildly mixed media aspect (pasted in bits of paper that get absorbed into the images) of Ward’s oil and acrylic pieces add a pulpy-ness already implied with the thematics. Across his pieces in the exhibition, he leaves enough recognizable bits for the viewer to latch on to. Though highly varied, his work still holds a firm throughline.

“A Ponderable Path” almost feels tongue in cheek (though fitting) as a title for this show. The paths are truly unmarked, and you’re left to figure a way through the majority of the work. If you’ve got time to ponder and the patience to parse meanings, I highly suggest heading over to Cerulean Arts to check this and the collective member exhibitions out!

A Ponderable Path is on view at Cerulean Arts from January 31–February 25, 2024 at 1355 Ridge Avenue. Open Wed–Fri 10am-6pm, Sat & Sun 12pm-6pm, wheelchair accessible.

Read more reviews by Corey Qureshi.