Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Wax-y buildup

Paesaggio at 100 Pearl
100 Pearl St., Hartford, (860) 233-1932
Carol Padberg: Valent Ledge
Closes Feb. 6, 2007.

The JPEG images artist Carol Padberg had emailed me didn't do justice to the encaustic on panel works she is showing at Paesaggio at 100 Pearl. They didn't reveal the way different colored encaustic layers formed tactile edges. Nor did they capture the subtle and enticing variations in hue within individual color sections.

With titles like "Bauhaus Font #5" and "Futura Font #2," Padberg, who recently received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Greater Hartford Arts Council, alerts us that these compositions derive from abstractions of letter forms. But of course, letter forms are themselves abstract shapes to which we have assigned—arbitrarily—duty as building blocks in a system of signification. In essence, Padberg extracts segments of these forms from one signification system and re-employs them in a different system, one based more on perceived aesthetics.

I certainly find that some of these works are more appealing than others. I'm drawn to the shiny plasticity of the surface in some, such as "Prensa Font #2." But more often it is the lively interplay of color choices that is pleasing. "Valent Perch," the three-foot square work after which this show is named, stands out for the beauty of blues and purples—with hints of magenta—that form a dark mesmerizing night storm of color covering much of the panel. This area is effectively set off by a slightly raised curtain of yellow-green along the top and right side. Compared to the purple-blue area, the green is flatter. It creates visual tension but isn't roiled with distracting colorations.

Her use of encaustic—hot wax with pigment—is a nice approach to this kind of minimal abstraction. "Verlag Font #2" has areas of blue and green. While the green sections are flat and opaque, the blue has a translucent luminescence. It is like a dark channel of water—icy, but absorbing light and reflecting it back from beneath the surface.

The works are all exhibited in a lobby space behind the security station in a Hartford office building. The wind hiss of the ventilation system and the hum of conversation contribute to a surprisingly meditative environment within which to contemplate this art.


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