Chicago

Nina Bovasso

Vendata Gallery

Nina Bovasso revs her paintings right up to the point where the riotous starts to dribble over into the giddy. But the swirling up-tempo pacing of her works, their curvy and swervy insouciance, can’t quite mask a surprisingly fastidious construction. Her viscous swirls and curlicues are so bold and sweepingly rhythmic that it’s an additional source of pleasure to find them rooted in a myriad of microdecisions, in her accretion of a seemingly endless series of small and discrete pictorial globules that proliferate in organic effusion. This is post-paisley abstraction at its most evocative, a focused pedal-to-the-metal loopiness that fully energizes the decorative and churns it into a charged vehicle for a kind of acrylic adrenaline.

With You in Mind #2 (all works 1999) swoops over its more than nine feet of paper like a mandala gone berserk. From a plethora of petite dots, ovals, and lax rectangles clustered at the center of the painting, Bovasso generates steadily increasing arcs and rivulets, picking up pace and scale throughout, until the painting erupts into bubbles and fiery tongues of color. The little and the big weave freely in and out of one another like cells and the organism they compose. Sometimes the small elements suggest things from the world—a bit of wheel, a cloud, a ladybug—and the large forms can take on the aura of fire or fabric, but on the whole, the artist privileges abstraction as decorative ornament. The painting is a diptych comprising vertical sheets of paper, and considering the curvilinear sweep of rhythms it is a bit of a shock to discover that the halves of the work are structurally and compositionally independent of each other. The seam in the center provides a meeting, but not a real congealing. Ultimately, the tendency toward the serpentine in Bovasso’s work and the marks’ inclination to pool and eddy optically binds the halves in a way that overcomes any sense of interruption or fragmentation. Her use of bubble-gum pinks, corals, and deep blues throughout both sides also helps hold the work together.

The smaller paintings on view (all Untitled) were more modest, as if it were not Bovasso’s intent to encumber any single sheet of paper with too much stuff. A loose and meandering linear pattern drawn to looping extremes, a circular scribble made into an essay in gestural speed, and a piling up of delicate little rectangles into an uneasy pyramid—each seems more relaxed than her larger works. The smallish pieces have more of the whimsical Philip Guston or Jean Dubuffet quality that always interests Bovasso, the wry and decompressed attitude toward imagery and abstraction that exhibits witty unpretentiousness taken to the point of revelation.

James Yood