When does LESS become MORE? In contemporary American society, this question may be especially difficult to answer for a culture that often values quantity over quality. The notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design was articulated after World War I, by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who believed that living with and within less enhanced one’s quality of life. His æsthetic tactics of flattening and emphasizing a building’s frame, eliminating interior walls and adopting an open floor-plan allowed him to reduce the structure to a strong, transparent, and elegant skin.
In the Less is More exhibition, the work of Martin Brief is rooted in these reductive aspects of Modernism, and one clearly sees this influence in his Newspaper Series. Much in the same way as Mies had done, Brief reduces his subject—in this case the front page of the New York Times—to a succession of small black circles. These shapes—the filled-in spaces within the letter “O”—are true remnants of the original text; they are also part of a constantly expanding timeline, which began with the artist’s birth and grows each day as more news is printed. Apart from the subjective meaning, however, the works have a more universal significance; in sequence, they represent the constantly evolving manner in which news (and text) is conveyed.
To the naked eye, Lesley Punton’s large canvases may not appear to depict forests, mountains, cities and rivers. Yet the milky surface of her paintings—sanded oil paint—is covered by intense and minutely detailed graphite drawings of these landscapes. The subjects have been completely dissolved into line, so much so that the viewer is presented with what at first glance appears to be simply an organized chaos of intersecting shapes. The drawings mimic the crests and folds of mountain terrain or the topography of a forest, and though they reference a specific site or object, they seem to wash over the entire canvas in a way that makes for an impression of the boundary-less sublime.
In Numina #4, Matt Ernst has blurred the line between subject and composition in his depiction of the iconic Adirondack guideboat. A symbol of painstaking craftsmanship that no longer exists in most of America, the artist has removed the subject from its function so that it can take on a plethora of new and expanded meanings. The title itself—a numen being the spiritual force identified with a natural object—is evocative of the divine nature of the form. The shape simultaneously references a shelter from the elements, a vessel for transportation, and more conceptually, a symbol of divine purity. Strong and elegant in form, the thick black texture of the paint is one of only a few indicators of a form that has been stripped down to its most fundamental features.
Rather than deconstructing her subject, sand in a storm, Jocelyne Alloucherie gives it a structure and a sharp and almost violent appearance by photographing the sand reacting to its environment like a brooding storm. The very nature of sand highlights the paradox that is present in her work—although sand has no specific shape, the forms that the artist manages to capture in her photographs give the material an appearance of solidity and structure.
Artists included in this exhibition include Jocelyne Alloucherie, Martin Brief, Suzanne Caporael, Matt Ernst, János Kalmár, Caitlin Masley, Mark Mennin, Jennifer Odem, Lesley Punton, Susanne Ramsenthaler, and Eric Tomberlin.