Perambulating the Bounds

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Erin Anfinson Writ Large

Erin Anfinson is having her moment in the Nashville Airport sun, with a couple of big landscape paintings overlooking the Southwest Airlines checkin area. Erin is known for her camouflage paintings, where she takes a scene and reduces it to patches of tones within one color group, which has the effect of making the underlying image hard to pick out. Your eye switches between that kind of translating activity and taking the shapes in as abstractions. She has starting breaking away from this, with more color range in the camouflage paintings (which tends to make them read a little more directly) and another series that’s completely different (little scenes in encaustic, part of it masked by one or several big circles in single color of thick paint). The paintings at the airport are more along the lines of the camy stuff, scenes of birds flying up from what seem like late Fall or winter fields. The colors are reduced to blue, brown, white, and grey, and the shapes reduced to essences. It sure looks like Iowa (she grew up there).

Boiling the birds down to these irregular pointy shapes makes it possible to imagine them as a bunch of leaves blowing around – which gives the shapes, whether you think of them as birds or something else, the sense of being nearly weightless and vulnerable to the elements, or susceptible to recording the slightest disruptions in the invisible world. It reminds me of one of Paul Chan’s videos (I don’t have the name with me, but it was in the PS1 New York region show), where birds are displaced by trash in a desolate environment. Anfinson’s paintings don’t have the apocalyptic overtones of Chan’s piece, but I think she gets in a hint of the same chaotic forces.

This reductive technique of hers continues to make for subtle and tricky viewing effects. And it works well at large scale, seen from a distance and up close. I wouldn’t necessarily have assumed that would be the case.

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