“ColorForms” Sizzles at 818 Studios
When I heard that Rebekah Wilhelm was pairing up with John Saile for a show ostensibly about “color” at 818 Studios, I will admit, I was surprised. Wilhelm is an artist whose career I have followed for years, and whose work I very much admire (and own), but color is not a quality I associate with her practice. Her intensely cerebral and meticulously crafted prints are often abstract exercises in form – and are usually devoid of color (I had the great pleasure of interviewing her back in 2017 as she was working on a series of black and white pressure prints). Now Saile, on the other hand, is an artist known for his explosive use of color. Back in 2012, he reached out to local paint company DayGlo to use their industrial neon colors for his own artwork. That exhibition evolved into what is now an annual group DayGlo show at Waterloo Arts (which just so happens to be opening this Friday, September 4th.) I never would imagined that Wilhelm’s work would sit comfortably next to his riotously colorful creations, but it seems that pandemics create strange bedfellows.
The show “ColorForms” currently on view at Barbara Merritt’s 818 Studios in Tremont is an assault on the retinas, but in a good way.
Saile’s colorful, optically-off-putting works immediately call to mind the Op-Art of Julian Stanczak and Ed Mieczkowski. In them, geometric forms careen to and fro, and the careful placement of highly charged colors force the eye’s rods and cones into overdrive. While precise, they are teetering on chaos – which is the most wonderful thing about them.
Far from static, optical tricks such as those used by Saile create the illusion of movement. His compositions almost seem to dance on the walls – joyful, ebullient, and definitely loud.
Wilhelm’s work in the show, while certainly colorful, is much quieter, more contemplative. Working primarily in oil-based monoprints, some are merely artful “swipes” of rainbows (like Untitled I above) – a clear indication of the artist’s hand, the documentation of an elusive moment of time captured on the page.
Wilhelm also likes to work in series. Hung together in groups, they successfully operate as a singular organism, but also independently, which is difficult to accomplish. These delicate prints show Wilhelm experimenting with the primary colors – layering them up to create chances in form, but more importantly, in color. The layered colors mix to create new tonalities, and the blackness at their core is the result of simple color theory.
My favorite series is the one pictured above – these four monoprints are like ghosts. Emerging from the black background of each is a spectral form, as if she scrubbed the dark ink away to reveal the colors beneath. Again, I like that these demonstratively show the artist’s hand at work. They are documents of a point in time, silently frozen to the page. Random, but carefully controlled – like the very best of Wilhelm’s work, she somehow accomplishes both simultaneously.
“ColorForms” is open by appointment only, and closes Saturday, September 12. But there are still plenty of slots open for you to stop by – you can book your viewing on their website here. And I highly recommend that you do – it’s the perfect antidote to the bleakness of the world right now.