As the title of this show suggests, “Soak.Stroke.Scratch.” contains art that would offer soothing, personal comfort in a private, domestic setting. There’s no cosmic angst, no philosophical inquiry and no assertions of political identity here. There are no challenges to the boundaries of art or understanding. These are all paintings that belong in that place of refuge and recovery: the home. They also seem most appropriate for those early or late times of day that are usually spent there.
For the early morning, there are the short, regular bursts of color that animate the paintings of Martina Nehrling. Her pictorial universe is a place of infinite energy and variation built with reverberating three-inch stripes of thick paint in solid, bold colors. When the stripes reach the edges of the canvas, they create an immersive, kaleidoscopic effect. When they don’t reach those edges, they create large, jagged shapes that resemble stacks of tumbling books, awkward but full of energy. Either way, each painting might serve as a pot of highly caffeinated coffee. There is a regularity to the placement of the stripes that suggest the orderliness of compulsive minimalism. But there is also a slap and dash and disruption that suggests spontaneous self-expression.
For the early evening, while recovering from the stress of a day at work, the paintings of Michelle Wasson offer simple colors, shapes and textures. Several small acrylic-and-sand paintings resemble plates of sauce or condiments. Just as comforting is her triptych of lithographs representing “The Past,” “The Present” and “The Future.” The past feels scary, the present feels happy and the future feels rosy—just like you’d want them to. It’s an ordinary but good life.
For the late evening, as a time for contemplation, there are the meditative paintings by Michelle Bolinger. Two of the pieces feature that ever-changing orb, the moon, presented here as more visceral and proactive than pure, cold and distant. Other pieces present a circular, tangled interweaving of gentle but irresistible forces—something like Chicago’s great Miyoko Ito, but not as haunting. Some of those pieces have been whited out, but the white does not reach all the way to the edges and the pattern beneath has not been entirely obliterated. The emptiness is more like one phase in a cycle rather than an expression of anger or frustration.
The gallerist, Melanee Cooper, reopened her gallery late last year after six years teaching therapeutic yoga in California. This show seems appropriate for that kind of spiritual practice. The art serves to enhance rather than transcend, critique or escape daily living. (Chris Miller)
“Soak.Stroke.Scratch.” shows through April 30 at Melanee Cooper Gallery, 740 North Franklin.