Tonight I went to see two different works. Jame Lavadour and Julia Mangold. The galleries, PDX Contemporary and Elizabeth Leach, were next to each other. Their works are different and also similar. Lavadour's abstract landscapes seems like a shamanic vision after a strong peyote trip. The vast spaces created with a subtle mix of bright color that are layered with pure neon unmixed colors and lines. The toxic color seems to have flatten the space and yet adds depth because of the layering. Some of the pieces are explosions from a volcano against the misty haze of distant land. There are sharp depth of field and jagged mountains. The shapes seems to come purer in it's abstraction where as a realistic or photographic depiction of the landscape would have organically rounded off the geometries. Despite the strong tone, the whole body of work seems to stay with a certain strong palette. A comparison could be made to Cezanne's cubist rendering of the landscape, reducing the mountain mass into flatten shapes. Cezanne's landscapes are more cubic then Lavadors. If Julia Mangold painted a landscape, it would be more a keen to Cezanne then Lavadour.
Then there is the austere work of Julia Mangold. She stays with in a certain tone yet still manage to produce an illusion of space. Her palette is black against the gallery's white wall. Her work contains a certain purity and religious tones. Her vision is also shamanic, though more hermetic and monastic, less gregarious then Lavadour's, though no less powerful. The work hungs on the wall as sculpture and painting at the same time. The more successful compositions are the pure square, almost cubes. Lavadour's forms and lines are organic becoming geometric and Julia Mangolds forms are geometric becoming organic. The lights cast ghostly shadows, light grays angels beneath the cube pieces hanging on the wall. Lavadors are panels that protrude slightly off the wall where as Julia's form extend from the wall and into the space of the viewer and room. In a way, Lavadour's work is minimal and flat. There are few colors within the painting and few shapes in the volcabulary. These issues, these tools are more distinct in Julia's work. Julia also has some pieces that are on a flat plane. They too are dimensionally projecting. The layers of transparency and space is perhaps most similar to Lavadour's paintings. They seem to be layers up on layers of vellum sheets, the top sheet has a slight curve at the top that shows how the pieces were constructed. They are also restricted to pure platonic shapes, like her sculptures. Their layering seems more apparent and constructed where as Lavadour's veils are hazing the mountain peaks beyond in mists. Lavadour rejoice in the un-ruliness, Julia reveal in the restraint.
The volumes bisected by the white lines that are between the rectangular shapes. Their forms create another shape casted by the gallery light. There are groupings of three square. Each is carefully constructed to bring out the proportions. For example, the smaller square groups has more depth and become more cube like in their volumes while the larger square groupings have flatter depth. This choice seems to be congruent with the way we perceive space and how we measure our body against the work. There were more obvious sculptural pieces as objects on the floor. The volumes, boxes lay flush against each other at times and then protrude no more then half an inch beyond each other. There seems to be a game, a consistency. For example, the horizontal lines between the space of the wall pieces are less then half an inch. There are limitations in dimension to create implied lines. The vertical wall pieces seem less successful and radically different from the implied square. It's not the unruliness's of the dimension that makes them alien to the square composition, it's their departure from the square that creates such a jarring affect. Though they are of the same color of black that unites the pieces, it is the geometry that makes them different and seem to belong to another artist. In the back of the gallery are the prints of Donald Judd. Only two are in black and white. Though they are lines, the black and white twins demonstrate the minimalist technique of varying only a few lines to make a slight but totally different space. It is no accident that the two are shown together. Julia works in the same line as Judd and even her last name Mangold recalls another minimalist, Robert Mangold. I shook her hands but did not ask her if she is related to Robert. Her work certainly carries the line and field color of Robert in shape but not color. It reminds me of Frank Stella's black and white prints and his radical departure in sculpture of metallic french curves protruding from the wall. I would have expected Frank Stella's work to be more like Julia's work if he carried on the same black and white palette and remain pure in his geometry of linear lines and rectangular shapes. Julia's work is a ghost of Donald Judd and Frank Stella. She carries on their tradition and I almost prefer her work to her fore bears, the masters of minimalist. Judd's work is sometimes too pure, dare I say boring, where as Julia's work allows a range of visual games to engage the viewers. Her work recalls another minimalist, Ann Truitt. Not long ago, I saw Truitt's column piece at the Portland Art Museum's Disquieted show. It is a column, an extended cube. In height, it is about the size of a woman. It is perfectly executed, like Julia's work. However, Julia's vertical pieces pales in comparison. If only Truitt's column were black, they would belong in the show as a mother watching over her children, Julia's child, playing quietly, sneakily protruding from each other on the wall and on the floor.