San Francisco

Diane Andrews Hall

Fuller Goldeen Gallery

Diane Andrews Hall started out as a painter in the late ’60s and left off in the ’70s to collaborate on video and performance pieces with her husband Doug Hall and the conceptualist group T. R Uthco. Images and ideas generated by her camera work on those pieces resurfaced in the paintings she began making six years ago, and her current interest in weather and landscape runs parallel to Doug Hall’s: his videotape Storm and Stress, 1986, and her new pictures share particular motifs—the ocean at Baker’s Beach in San Francisco, dark clouds massing in New Mexico skies—as well as a passion for improvised constructivist framing and dissolves. The pictures locate motions of sea and sky as powerful, temporal quasi states of matter observed in freeze-frame.

Clouds and waves aren’t objects, but our views of them can make them seem so. Hall combines distinct views—using multiple panels or insets within a single panel (often based on the a priori framing that photography affords)—so as to orchestrate different atmospheric weights and durations. The weather comes parsed in sets of prismatic incident, each bearing its load of absence and fullness, rapture and resolve. This is sumptuous conceptual painting. The light is the factual one of color stuck on canvas; it doesn’t spread so much as agglomerate, and it refracts like the weather. The succinct, no-blur brushmarks define substance in a sky’s drift, suggesting not only immemorial sunsets and storms, but flowers, flesh, seashells, drapery, and other sensuous things. Each overall arrangement is the setting for at least one infinitude, along with its hints of footlooseness and grandeur. Infinitude is there, but it’s boxed and cropped, scaled down and delivered in order to be perceived. To that extent, Hall’s subject is the traditional Romantic enclosure of nature under sublime conditions—the delectation of a whirlwind under glass. Not content with Romanticism’s ornamental responses, she augments enclosure to investigate the dimensions of the sublime. Surplus effusion is strictly ruled out.

Hall’s will to method is formidable, if not always on target. She fashions sharp-edged insets and flat low bands and sticklike strips and spindles of solid ground that seem to hem or cut the atmosphere without being touched by it. There’s a brittleness to her horizons that makes you trust them less either as bearings or as footholds. When her devices click, they send the multiple sensations of climate trumpeting forward at once, heraldically. Gazing at the frontal burst of Suspended Horizon, 1986, is like being privy to a humane cosmogony. It has what Emerson called the “inexplicable continuity” of water. Other, more tyrannical designs create edgier, jostled effects. Hall seems more at home when she lets sensuousness and straight observation get the upper hand. A beach scene in three slightly separated panels, For Those of Us Who Love to Be Astonished, 1986, partakes of a kind of “pararealism.” In each panel the dark beach gives onto a span of gradually different light—it’s the same late-in-the-day moment throughout, but nature (as is its intermittent wont) has divided itself in the act of being seen.

Bill Berkson