Susan Joseph: Hopeful Monsters at Groundspace Project – Curatorial Statement by Kerry Kugelman


Catspaw, 2017 (40 x 120″ 4 panels)

Reception: Saturday, August 19, 6-9 pm
Closing Reception: Saturday, September 9, 4-6 pm
Exhibition Dates: August 19 – September 9, 2017

Groundspace Project is pleased to present Susan Joseph: Hopeful Monsters, a solo painting exhibition. Please join us for the opening reception on Saturday, August 19 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.

Curatorial Statement:

Susan Joseph’s new suite of paintings, “Hopeful Monsters,” is a gorgeous exploration of pattern, light, and form. Inspired in part by the botanical phenomenon of flowering plants that make large evolutionary steps in one generation (called hopeful monsters), her new work revels in wild and prolific abundance. At the heart of much of this is the idea that massive iterations of basic forms give rise in turn to variations that lead to change and growth – and it is a story wonderfully told in these works.

The artist’s technique is elegant and powerful: a stencil based on a floral motif, unique to each painting, is used to overlay hundreds of layers of translucent oil color on a background tone, most often a pairing of white and blue. Patterns emerge from swirls of repeated shapes, and the paintings are shimmering masses of color, a visual field alive with implied motion. Forms build up into shapes, even as edges and boundaries remain somewhat amorphous.

In addition, there is a tangible as well as visual facet to the art. Layer upon layer of thinly applied paint accretes into a physical topography on each painting, ranging from a membranous clarity infused with white color, to the denser value and relatively thicker striations of more heavily loaded pigment. This paint-skin gives the paintings a heft and presence that promises and delivers more than just a retinal experience.

However, though their source code is organic and floral, these artworks are not flowery, instead embodying a runaway fecundity that threatens to overrun the painting surface. The sheer profusion of forms and riot of activity in each painting feels natural – in the most fundamental meaning of that term – and suggests the unbounded exuberance of Spring.

In the multi-panel Cat’s Paw, a torrent of repeated blue shapes flow in wavy rhythms across the surface, almost vibrating with an internal pulse. Individually translucent, the repetition of overlaid marks begins with whispered subtle passages of color, then builds into orchestral swells of dense blue, like frozen animation.

Inflorescence, embraces slightly more color in this composition, two tall forms bridged by a third. Rather than the more linear momentum some of the works, this painting has its own gravity, and a fountain of overlaid stenciled marks festoon the large forms with cascades of diaphanous color which fade, at the margins, into the dark blue background.

With the largest work in the show, “Blown Bloom,” Joseph brings this iterative approach to the support itself.  Comprised of 45 separate paper sheets, the painting has its genesis on one sheet, and then extends onto additional sheets, suggesting an ongoing propagation of the form and pattern. The paper itself is not mounted, but attached to the wall at the corners; the slight curl in each sheet creates a wavery, undulating texture across the face of the composite painting, adding to the sense of motion and movement.

Vibrating with a dizzy rush of form, pattern, and color, Susan Joseph’s new work sparkles as it melds organic multiplicity and bloom with visual and tactile grace.

-Kerry Kugelman, 2017


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s