San Francisco

Helene Aylon

Grapestake Gallery

In the early 1970s Helene Aylon created “paintings that change in time,” process works in which oil, dyes and paint were placed on resistant brown paper and sandwiched between nonporous surfaces such as plexiglass. The artist’s primary goal with these works was to observe the transformations that occurred after the piece was assembled. As a body of work they attracted attention for their uniqueness of both material and process. But by the nature of the technique and somewhat unprogrammed material, they lacked visual cohesiveness.

In Aylon’s most recent work, the formative process takes place as the work is assembled. These pieces, which aren’t exactly paintings, since they use neither paint nor brush, are constructed solely with linseed oil poured, dripped or puddled in layers onto the brown paper. However, in contrast to the earlier works, the artist retains more control, creating a repertoire of shapes generated by specific methods of application.

The pieces themselves appear more decisive and thematically consistent than her previous paintings. The brownish gold coloring of the linseed oil becomes jewellike under the plexiglass. A male and a female form, a branchlike configuration and an ovoid predominate. In several compositions the ovoid is the primary focus, an intense and energetic center from which masses of oil emanate. In the diptych Reflecting Forms, the linseed puddle was developed into a sack and the painting tipped upright so that the sack broke through the skin. The final two-part composition appears as a cross-section of this metamorphosis.

Although Aylon is still concerned with process, and the possibilities of change, equal consideration is given to the visual. Aylon seeks a universal morphology, and judging by these ten works, she has found it. These pieces suggest the birth process (Reflecting Forms, in both appearance and conception), microscopic cellular structure, aerial views and soil erosion. They seem to connect to everything and anything that is organic. And like natural derivations, they have the potential to change or age. But as with organisms themselves, the pieces can only mature within the structural coding established by the artist.

Hal Fischer