For at least thirty years, the conversation surrounding geometric abstraction has been mired in the shop-worn rhetoric of early twentieth-century modernism, its relationship to utopian ideals, a critique of said modernism, or some combination thereof. Besides being played out, I’ve never found these approaches particularly illuminating. Far more provocative possibilities emerge when one encounters geometric painting as it truly is: a form of sculpture, subject to the pressures and demands of the discipline.
Unlike two-dimensional work, which offers us a glimpse into a credible alternative reality fashioned by the artist, sculpture projects itself outward, extending its influence into our world and transforming our physical relationship with it. By not demanding that we look “in” but instead inviting us to look “at” and “around,” the modestly scaled “signs” in Belgian artist Alain Biltereyst’s attractive new show, “Notes” at Devening Projects + Editions, accomplish such a feat.
The twenty-five untitled panels that line the East Garfield Park gallery’s project room evoke the sort of slick signage that proliferates in the urban landscape. Crisp lines, flat, decorative color and primary shapes simultaneously recall the authority of traffic signs and the seductive nature of corporate advertising, betraying Biltereyst’s background in graphic design. Close examination reveals frayed paint edges and scarified surfaces reminiscent of a boxcar tagged one too many times.
Taken as a whole, the works in “Notes”—nearly all of which are the same size and occupy the same wall position—vibrate with the vitality and familiarity of billboards passed rapidly on a suburban interstate. Just as these oversized structures compete for our attention and transform the landscape of our in-between spaces, so to do the artist’s wooden rectangles affect the character of the space in which they are hung. Neither representation nor reproduction, Biltereyst’s work typifies embodiment in the best possible way. (Alan Pocaro)
Through October 12 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 West Carroll, third floor.