Critics’ Picks

Fernanda Gomes, Untitled, 2008, wood, cardboard, and paint, 98 1/1 x 106 1/4 x 13 3/4".

Fernanda Gomes, Untitled, 2008, wood, cardboard, and paint, 98 1/1 x 106 1/4 x 13 3/4".

Vienna

Fernanda Gomes

Galerie Grita Insam
An der Hülben 3
September 19–November 14, 2008

A plastic bag flutters in the front window of this gallery, and blank sheets of white paper block the view into the space. Inside, the entry to the rear section is partially covered with similar sheets of paper; otherwise, the space appears empty. What initially looks like a work being installed turns out to be Fernanda Gomes’s fascinating and subtle arrangement of surfaces and lines: White canvases, pieces of both tissue and heavier paper, taut threads, and transparent Plexiglas conjure up a unique sort of painting. The longer viewers linger, the more the works differentiate themselves: twenty-five silent pieces full of very sensitive material, size, and proportion decisions, almost invisible paintings that request a kind of meditative attention. This is not the noisy and striking breed of artmaking practiced by, say, Jonathan Meese; it needs neither colors to maintain visibility nor words to evince content. Gomes transforms mundane materials—the kind used and touched several times a day—into visual poems addressing nothing all too specific. She tremendously opens up their potential to yield stories. With a palette restricted to white, which reflects all colors of the spectrum, this exhibition suggests a realm of possibilities, of projections; it contains everything yet specifies nothing and, as such, is wonderfully liberating. After leaving the exhibit, viewers continue looking for similar signs of art, which may be one of the reasons the pieces need no titles. “It’s a privilege of the visual arts to keep words out of things, to create a language without words,” Gomes says. In this exhibit, naming the singular pieces would have limited available associations, as well as the visual and emotional intensity of Gomes’s work.