Santa Barbara

Emerson Woelffer

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

An exhibition of the artist’s recent works, featuring his own personal vocabulary of handprints and “mirror” shapes––shapes which recall half-apples seen in silhouette. Only one work “Yellow Poem #2” lacked both; its dominant feature was a large, black, almost square shape nearly filling the canvas, its uneven edges defined on the sides and the bottom by dark brown areas, while its top was edged by a band of bright ochre. In the upper center of this shape, white, thickly textured paint became two adjoining squares. The black, functioning as a shape in itself and also as a background, provides the viewer with a pleasing quality of mass and void. “Black Mirror and Tricolor” presents a large raw canvas stained with equal red and blue vertical stripes, leaving an equal area of the canvas between them to function as a white stripe. The mirror shape, in matte black cardboard, split horizontally, is fastened to the surface. The play of the solid, crisp shape against the transparent, fluid stains of the colors provides visual interest. Other works contain the mirror shape, and also the print of the artist’s hand, repeatedly, as a decorative motif. Because of the anthropological and evocative associations of the handprint––for what can be more personal, more a mark of identification than a man’s hand?––this use never becomes empty decoration, but maintains a feeling of personal expression as no designed shape could.

––H. J. Weeks

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