Scottie Parsons, “Shibeli River from Dwelling Game Series”.

Scottie Parsons, “Shibeli River from Dwelling Game Series”.

Scottie Parsons: Selected Works From The Artist’s Estate 1925-2011

Currently on view at William Campbell Contemporary Art is the life work of Texas artist Scottie Parsons, Selected Works From The Artist’s Estate (1925-2011). Carrying the vestiges of the likes of Ellen Frankenthaler and Richard Diebenkorn, Parsons dedicated her life to the field of abstraction, using paint as her medium to explore space and time based concepts that celebrate the “mysterious quality of our lives”.

Four decades of her work can be seen within the exhibition, offering an overview of Parson’s untiring devotion to late modernist pursuits. Fields of color washes, scribbled text and tube-derived palettes constitute her child-like approach. Surfaces reveal their history through a series of distinguishable layers, demarcating time in a linear fashion that alludes to cryptic narratives. Her inscribed text motif read like illegible diary entries or frantic ramblings, which counter the softer moments in her work.  I spent some time head scratching over the use of the text, looking for clues, trying to make out words, and puzzling over the representational interjections.

Peppered among large-scale canvas works reside smaller paintings on paper, where Parsons takes greater liberties with the medium, initiating vibrancy and tension on the painted surface that somewhat lacks in the larger ones. Newer works like Chime Keeper, Forest Journey, and Vocare (To Call), evoke Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series.

Seemingly derived from the smaller paper studies, these mid scale paintings are dominated by large, flat color fields that force smaller and smaller rectangles of color into the perimeters of their picture planes. Something comes up short in the larger compositions, as their smaller counterparts maintain intensity, confidence and resolution.    

The exhibition’s more notable moments lie in early works like Infinity Inscription #7, and Star Formation, where visual layers retain freshness and complexity while the handling of the paint remains uninhibited. The palettes are cool, the marks intuitive, and the layers are potent with an immediacy that held my interest.

Upstairs I came across Oracle IV-Delphi, which was not actually part of the exhibition, but leaned against a wall, pulled from storage for an inquiring patron. This painting, approximately forty-eight inches square, was more in tune with the qualities described in William Campbell’s press release: ethereal layers, wisps of color, the emergence and recession of elements that allude to a passing of time. Misty grey, whites and blues veil a history of brilliant color patches that appear when given the opportunity. Scribbled bits of text, lines, and geometric forms texturize the surface without begging me to decipher them. Oracle IV-Delphi, achieves what Parsons other larger paintings couldn’t, it retains the assuredness and strength of her smaller paper studies. Which left me walking out the door wondering if there was more to Scottie Parsons’ career than the exhibition was allowing me to see.

—GREGORY RUPPE


The show ends February 9, 2013, at William Campbell Contemporary Art.
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