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Theresa Hackett and Jill Levine
The George Gallery, Laguna Beach, California
Preview by Daniella Walsh

Theresa Hackett’s paintings, drawings and collages and Jill Levine’s playful sculptures strike the right balance: Instead of just one “aha” moment, they offer several.


Continuing through February 28, 2013


In a world measured and contained in “apps,” it’s still a truism that trying to decipher a compelling work of art is akin to understanding a person. It takes time, effort and concentration. At times a work will reveal itself in larger measures or divulge its secrets in small segments, but if it’s worth anything, it rarely speaks to us all at once. Theresa Hackett’s paintings, drawings and collages and Jill Levine’s playfully contorted sculptures strike just the right balance. Instead of just one “aha” moment, they offer several. 


The title of the pair's exhibition, “Gravity’s Elbow,” is a dadaist title that points to the absurdity of trying to establish boundaries in creativity. Hackett titles her paintings and collages but beyond that you are on your own, you can read pretty much what you want into their decided ambiguity. “Twisting Time” contains both painted and collaged elements, culminating in a dark, shadowy focal point evocative of humanity rising from primitive beginnings to civilization or perhaps the reverse, a descent from light into darkness. “Pattern of Waking,” on the other hand, suggests the process of nature including earth, water and fire. 


Colored markers, photos, ballpoint pens, even coffee and whisky are pressed into service with frequently mesmerizing results. The only material constant is Flashe, a densely covering, matte acrylic paint. The main difference between Hackett's approach to painting versus collage is that she paints mostly on canvas and collages on paper, employing colored pencils but oddly enough no physical collage elements, at least if one sees “Collage #2” as a prototype. The overall effect is that of a watercolor, a study for a future painting. 


Hackett’s compositions embody the best of abstraction, namely the possibility of continued contemplation allowing for new interpretations, new surprises of balances and imbalances, communication between shape, form and color. She addresses these issue of imagination and formal elements in “Collage #1,” which brings to mind elements of a seascape or memories of a day at the beach. Yet, she states that she uses a basic grid to arrange her forms in an attempt to depict order amidst chaos. She is adept at permitting materials to speak to the viewer as well as to each other. “Lonely Crowds” embodies the spirit of this work: never a dull moment.


Levine quite literally stretches the boundaries between sculpture and painting with plaster figures that have borrowed their shape and motifs from Pre-Columbian art and lore. While many are hung and thus appear like relief sculpture, handling them is the best way to get the full effect of their plastic form and the colors, shapes and symbols covering their “skin.” The convoluted forms snaking in and out of each other also echo Asian and African motifs (“Burnt Offering” and “Eyeteeth”) as well as a dash of 21st century pop culture. The result of "Gravity’s Elbow's" pairing is to spotlight thoughtful and provocative work.

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