2.19 / Review

Moving Violations

By Matt Stromberg June 13, 2011
Moving Violations #2, 2010; collage with acrylic on canvas; 42 x 78 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Brian Gross Fine Art, San Francisco.

Judith Foosaner's paintings in the lobby of One Post Street are stark explorations of movement, line, and surface. Limiting her palette to black and white, she fully focuses on formal properties in Moving Violations. Foosaner begins with expressive line drawings in charcoal on paper, adding black acrylic paint. She then cuts these up into rectangles and reassembles them as collages on canvas. The resulting works capture a tension between gesture and geometry, hand and grid.

Though Foosaner’s works lack a central focal point, they are by no means static; swirling light and dark forms dance across the surface of the canvases, interrupted by thin, pasted rectangles. She establishes a dynamic between the ground of the canvas and overlaying forms, flipping back and forth between white and black, a duality that is mirrored in the literal surface tension between the canvas and the collaged elements on top: painted and pasted. The titles of her works—Moving Violations (2010–2011), Breaking and Entering (2011), State of Siege (2011)—playfully allude to these competing dualities.

The Moving Violations series shows a formal connection to Abstract Expressionism, bringing to mind the organic fluidity of Arshile Gorky, the all-over painting of Lee Krasner, or the gridded black constructions of Louise Nevelson. However, her work also intermingles the influence of the post–Abstract Expressionist painters who favored system and logic over unbridled gesture. The power of Moving Violations lies in the way Foosaner deftly mediates between these touchstones, balancing the energetic movement of her painted forms with the cut and overlaid structure; the hand-painted improvisations dance around the rigid cadences established by the hard-edged collage. Indeed, these works have a musicality to them, and their loosely gridded arrangement shares some similarity with music staves, as if capturing both the structure and guided fluidity of musical notation.

State of Siege, 2011; collage with acrylic on canvas; 66 x 66 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Brian Gross Fine Art, San Francisco

As much as they recall organized musical or written data, the works of Moving Violations are also reminiscent of the aesthetics and inevitable degeneration of digital data. Although she uses traditional painting materials, our perception of her work shares something with our experience of popular contemporary technology. There are visual parallels between the linear disruptions in these surfaces and the pixelation of online video. The inherent confusion and inability to fully “read” these paintings speaks to the current age of information fatigue, physically manifesting the way in which exponentially increasing access to information and data has become inversely proportional to our level of knowledge and understanding.

With her misleadingly facile Moving Violations series, Foosaner draws on the history of abstraction to create engrossing formal investigations. Looking to Abstract Expressionism and the artists that succeeded that movement, she combines gestural painting with collage, balancing organic lyricism with geometric order. The technique of adding collaged elements on top of the canvas not only challenges the primacy of the picture plane, but thwarts attempts to dismiss these paintings as simply part of the high modernist project. As much as these works are about literal surface tension, they are also about the disorientation of encountering a language just beyond our comprehension.

Moving Violations is on view at Brian Gross Fine Art at One Post Street, in San Francisco, through July 1, 2011. 

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