PORCH GALLERY, OJAI
(April 14-May 29, 2016)
Seismic | Formations, brings together works by China Adams and Joshua Abarbanel, artists whose practices are not overtly linked. Yet when considered together, as with all inspired curatorial pairings, the contrasts and confluences between the two artists highlight particular qualities of each. Here, those qualities include patience, obsessive execution, a fascination with expressions of the passage of time and the ways in which processes of nature and industry mimic one another in forms of instinct and entropy. The graphite drawings in Adams’ series A Certain Period of Time describe, prove and embody the physical, durational action of their own creation. Their conceptually hermetic, metonymical structures read as objects in pictorial space when viewed at a distance, but flatten out on approach, coming to resemble the stylus-graphs of earthquake tracking or lie detectors. The curvilinear outlines and contoured edges of the “shapes” generated by her repetitive but variable march of vertical marks seem fluid at their edges, like billowing silk; yet they regain heft as well as spatial occupation with distance, resembling sketches of Richard Serra sculptures planted upright in white grounds, before proximity again disrupts the illusions of smooth surface which devolve and resolve into the crisp individual lines of their beings.
Abarbanel’s machine-tooled, hand-assembled works for wall, ceiling suspension and tabletop are, by contrast, ineffably dimensional and tactile, telegraphing their profusion of quasi-organic detail at any pace. His constructions resemble the fractal perfection of lichen, moss, barnacles, flower beds and the knotty, gnarly bark of the wood from which they are culled. Newer works called Hulls resemble helmets, geodes, armadillos covered in flowers, partly unearthed ancient vessels… and are set down with balanced poise and illuminated from within. Both artists achieve powerful moments of paradox in their works; the illusion at work in Abarbanel’s pieces is the push and pull between the made and the grown, rather than between the flat and the spatial.
In a salient and serendipitous overlap, Adams includes a small number of pieces that speak to Abarbanel’s. In these her time-based mark-making departs from the rectilinear to depict a cross-section of the concentric rings that mark the age of a tree, containing as it does in its very body the shape of its years of existence with lines of varying thickness and strength, recalling the encoded narratives that inspire each of these singular artists.