Wabi Sabi

Kirsten Macy Untitled Oil and enamel on linen Courtesy of the artist and Art Palace
Kirsten Macy
Oil and enamel on linen
Courtesy of the artist and Art Palace

Wabi Sabi, a group exhibition at Art Palace, draws its title from the traditional Japanese aesthetic ideal characterized by serene imperfection with an emphasis on irregularity, simplicity, and transience. Featuring works by Kirsten Macy, Ludwig Schwarz, Jamie Davis, and Michael Villarreal, Wabi Sabi’s images share muted palettes and range from purely abstract to barely representational.

Much of Kirsten Macy’s polished work was created for her 2013 solo exhibition Feels Like Forever at Barry Whistler Gallery in Dallas. Counterbalancing geometric shapes with controlled splatter-bursts or materials such as enamel with natural linen, Macy’s paintings play up tensions between the natural and synthetic. Seemingly formulaic, Macy created the images as a form of automatic meditation in response to a life-altering car crash. Macy’s control and the paintings’ sense of forced serenity suggest an internal struggle.

The paintings of Ludwig Schwarz in this exhibition are markedly different from his pattern-based compositions, instead focusing on fading earth tones and slow curves. These images can be viewed as being cropped from or subsets of a larger ideal image. Although Schwarz’s paintings are not conceptually indebted to the color-field painters of the mid-twentieth century, the similarity is jarringly uncanny.

Jamie Davis is the only artist in the exhibition working on paper and the only based in Houston. (We exhibited together in 2012.) Markedly sparse, Davis’ drawings of nearly-invisible text and unfinished graph paper are as much about spatial relations as they are about the practice of drawing. The minimal tendency is a departure from her previous narrative forms, but still maintains a fascination with pattern.

Michael Villareal Amass Oil on panel Courtesy of the artist and Art Palace.
Michael Villareal
Oil on panel.
Courtesy of the artist and Art Palace.

Central Texas-based Michael Villareal’s oil paintings appear baroque against the other artists. With heavy impasto effects and flauntingly explicit brush strokes, the paintings create effects seen in high-relief sculptures. Villareal’s subject matter focuses on vaguely biomorphic forms, many of which read like still life.

The exhibition can be viewed through strictly formal eyes, but the images don’t lose themselves to austerity. Proprietor Arturo Palacios used a light touch in presenting the exhibition, which easily could have succumbed to over-curation and forced “dialogues”. Instead, Wabi Sabi offers a pause from hurried immediacy, with delicate images that slowly reveal more of themselves the longer you look.