Brisa Amir, Untitled Walls, 2017, oil, graphite, and emulsion on paper, 60 x 68".

Brisa Amir, Untitled Walls, 2017, oil, graphite, and emulsion on paper, 60 x 68".

Brisa Amir

Brisa Amir, Untitled Walls, 2017, oil, graphite, and emulsion on paper, 60 x 68".

“Slow Painting” was an impressive display for an artist just out of college. The “paintings” were constructed out of sheets of thick paper stained by raindrops, coffee spills, and paint splatters, among other liquids, often overlaid or connected at their edges, and worked on with smudges, lines, splashes and splatters of graphite, emulsion, acrylic and oil paint, and charcoal—details that “finish” what are essentially action paintings executed in gradual time. Thirty-one small examples of such work were presented on the back wall of this gallery’s main space: The studies reflected a commanding instinct for composition.

In some cases, Amir attaches sheets to irregularly shaped wooden supports to create “canvases,” seven of which, all from 2017, were presented in this exhibition. Untitled Tiles, for instance, is made up of pages that bear different kinds of marks depending on their size. Larger panels are awash with gray paint in varying dilutions, with scribbles of charcoal and graphite visible in the mix; at points, swaths bearing traces of coarse bristles follow furious trails of graphite lines moving from the bottom of the panel to the top. Smaller leaves are positioned amid these swaths at various corners, characterized by thick, heavy graphite dashes following a uniform pattern that covers most of their surfaces. In the middle of it all is a small black patch, its bottom and right side outlining a neat vertical rectangle, its top side showing a bright orange rip that goes diagonally downward to cover another tear delineating this shape’s left side.

There is something Twomblyesque about Amir’s marks: poetic, dynamic, precociously irreverent yet carefully reverential. Untitled Walls, for example, is a landscape-oriented irregular cross, made from large and small pieces of paper—some torn, some straight-edged. A light and watery shade of peach-blossom orange washes over much of its surface, moving from the top downward, with pencil scribbles in varying widths and weights forming patches and stripes across the plane, and with thin swipes of black paint and larger brushstrokes of olive green worked in. On the upper right corner, elegant upward flits of black and green gesture toward light tracks of blue that seem to have been rubbed in (or off). At the bottom left, this orange-washed backdrop hits a visible edge. Here, sheets are covered in very different marks—a messy spill of black watered down at various densities, out of which hints of yellow and olive emerge, and where irregular red splashes are scattered. Holding it all together is the curled hardness of the paper on which this drama unfolds—evidence of the environments where the artist has worked, which has been soaked into each page. Parts of the surface are torn, uncovering another layer beneath, the hole revealing the thickness of each leaf, or a glimpse of the wooden panels supporting the structure.

Installed on the walls of the stairs that lead up to the gallery’s main space were two framed collages (both 2018) that were quite different from the works upstairs. Made up of small fragments and squares stuck down on top of larger brown-washed sheets affixed to even larger white-yet-stained backdrops, these pixelated mosaics when viewed from afar looked as if they were made of photographs. Their shared title offered a point of entry into the logic behind Amir’s rapturous material abstractions; indeed, it could have served as the name of the show: See the Macrocosm in Microvision.

Stephanie Bailey