It’s difficult to imagine the paintings of Maura Segal without the Adrian Pearsall wingback armchairs that sat beneath them on the day of my visit. They calm the space around the flamboyant 1950s home furnishings, while echoing their bold contours from up on the wall. It’s a perfect pairing. Of the eight art galleries nationwide that represent this Los Angeles painter, Matthew Rachman is the only one that also sells furniture. But still one wonders whether these paintings might be significant in any context other than home decor.
They are quite simple: just a few unbroken black lines curving above a monochromatic surface. The lines were pulled from rolls of thin plastic tape, so both edges are sharp and the width never varies. The surface has texture, which is only apparent upon close examination. Like wire sculptures, the visual content of these pieces is the interconnection of the shapes that the lines inscribe. Does it have tension, balance, power or wonder? Does it feel fresh or unique? Kind of.
Its limited vocabulary might suggest minimalism—but these lines reach toward, rather than away from something. And though hardly mimetic, the pieces do suggest the interrelating volumes of a crouching, full-bodied woman placed at the center of the visual field and pushing up against the edges—much like a caryatid.
I would not have been surprised if the artist had offered these pieces as an homage to the figurative line drawings of Matisse. The whole is never sacrificed to the detail, as the artist tries to establish form rather than destroy or avoid it. Most of today’s figurative art is aggressive. It demands attention to either the artist’s defiant self or some political cause. This work, however, feels peaceful, content, Arcadian. It politely invites viewers into a world more enjoyable than their own. It suggests movement—but not one that needs to go anywhere. It’s more like just breathing. Rather than hanging above collectible furniture, perhaps these paintings belong in a room full of yoga mats.
If you believe that it is both important and difficult to feel centered, balanced and peaceful, these pieces are much more than decorative. They’re therapeutic. This series of paintings appears simpler and less hectic than Segal’s other work as seen online—which is not a bad thing. But some kind of special, unexpected spark seems to be missing. As the artist says about herself, “Maura Segal is a person content with life’s daily routine.” But who should be so content? So much needs to be done—and so little time is left to do it. (Chris Miller)
“Maura Segal: Linear Motion” is on view at Matthew Rachman Gallery, 1659 West Chicago, through September 8.