East City Art Reviews—The Song of Earth Has Many Different Chords at Adah Rose Gallery

By Claudia Rousseau, Ph.D. on November 23, 2020

Adah Rose has moved into a new space in the same courtyard in Kensington, MD where the gallery has been for many years, with more exhibition area and more light.  Her inaugural show in the new space is poetically titled “The Song of Earth Has Many Different Chords”, and it features two artists who work with the subject of nature and earth processes in different media and different approaches, but are definitely compatible.  Showing are paintings by Gabe Brown and sculpture by Scott Hazard, both of which are characterized by techniques that, in a sense, mimic the natural structures they are referencing.

Gabe Brown, Afterglow, oil on linen on panel, 20” x 16”, 2019.  Photo courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.

Brown has been working with very diluted glazes of oil on modestly sized linen supports laid over wood panel.  The layering of these glazes is mostly done with a squeegee rather than brushes, and these translucent layers often appear to be moving across the surface creating a deep sense of pictorial space.  The surfaces are smooth, but one can often see the effect of dragging of one layer over a previously dried one, as in the sides of Afterglow, or more prominently in Blue Shade (see detail below), both of 2019.

Gabe Brown, Blue Shade (detail), oil on linen on panel, 2019.  Photo C. Rousseau for East City Art.

Also disturbing the smoothly applied layers are the interruptions of flat geometric or long paddle-like forms that are superimposed over them, as well as delicately applied outcroppings of leaves that are often painted in blue sprays.  In a work like Afterglow these are accompanied by what look like equally delicate graphic renderings of molecular growth.  The juxtaposition of the paddle or panel forms and to these gentle allusions to natural processes, architecture vs nature, is a theme throughout most of the works in this show.

Of course, there is geometry and pattern in nature too, and many artists have aimed to make us more aware of this fact, especially in recent years with a turn toward themes focusing on the environment in these times of increasing crisis.  Brown’s Sunrise is an interesting case in point of this allusion to pattern.

Gabe Brown, Sunrise, oil on linen over panel, 16” x 12”, 2019.  Photo courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.

Here we see the translucent underlayers accented by those orange panels and a spray of blue leaves over pale yellow.  Below that is a honeycomb pattern, bringing to mind, perhaps, the amazing structures of bees and other insects.  Beneath that is a bowl-like form with the intricate webbing pattern that also seems to allude to molecular structures, as well as the pattern of blood vessels in humans and animals.

Gabe Brown, Rising Tide, oil on linen on panel, 20” x 16”, 2020.  Photo courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.

Among my favorites in this group are Rift and Rising Tide, both of 2020.  The latter may specifically refer to the problem of the rising seas because of climate change, but also contains the familiar motifs of leaves and panels.  In addition is a structure composed of carefully drawn lines of many colors that seems architectural; a real imposition in the watery world of the composition.  A curved blue line along the bottom and up the sides may suggest a television screen implying that we are watching but not doing much to hold back the rising tides.

Gabe Brown, Rift, oil on linen over panel, 16” x 12”, 2020.  Photo courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.

Rift is a wonderful shade of blue, the gestural movements of the artist’s application of it in much evidence.  The familiar tree of leaves sprouts in white on the left, while aqua panels are linked on the right.  A wall-like ring encircles the lowest one, that seems to be plunging into blue water, while a comb of colored lines occupies its other end.  There is something about this, and, indeed about all of these paintings that reminds me of Joan Miro, especially the large organic works of the early 1930s in which forms similar to Brown’s panels frequently appear, as well as this arresting blue ground.  Brown’s affinity to Miro was more pronounced in many of her earlier works, and some of this can be seen in a group of works on paper that can also be shown in the gallery on request.

In the adjoining room are the three-dimensional paper works of Scott Hazard, the like of which I have never seen.  The Raleigh, NC based artist holds a degree in landscape architecture as well as an MFA in sculpture, video and photography.  It is the former occupation, involving precise preparatory drawings, that has probably enabled Hazard to contemplate making these sculptural geographies from cut and torn paper layers, meticulously placed to create the sense that we are looking at bits of the earth, enclosed in wood box frames.  The subtlety of the technique does not translate well into reproduction—this is work that must be seen in person to appreciate the stunning achievement of each piece.  Exactly six years ago Hazard installed an enormous work in the floor of a gallery in New York, titling it Silent Geography.[1]  While the newer works in this show are all enclosed in very portable frames, they are no less marvelous.

Scott Hazard, Rock Steady, paper and hand-stamped text in maple frame, 15” x 15” x 8”, 2020.  Photo courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.

Called “Text Constructs” these works not only conjure landscape, as can be seen in Rock Steady, but they carry text, hand stamped so that they perfectly align with the paper layers.  The artist’s website gives a concise idea of his intention in doing this.

Hazard’s text based mixed-media works explore how we collectively engage, understand, inhabit and exploit the land. Delving into recent and distant histories of human interaction with our environment, as well as geology, hydrology and plant ecology, the landscape becomes something that can be read… His works feature numerous layers of paper, punctuated with geometric and organic masses of hand-stamped text…to define intimate portal-like voids and micro-gardens.[2]

The idea of the enclosed garden, a sacred space set off and protected from the wildness around it, is also part of the reference in these works.  There are no angels here, but the sense that we’re looking at something captured and preserved from nature is very compelling.

Rock Steady, detail from above.  Photo C. Rousseau for East City Art.

 

Scott Hazard, Landscape for Reading, paper and hand-stamped text in maple frame, 16.5” x 45.5” x 6”, 2020.  Photo courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.

Landscape for Reading was finished just as the show was being installed, but it certainly refers back to the text quoted above.  What appears as a straight band across the center in the photo is not that in fact.  The words are on the separate layers of the sculpture repeating and weaving up and down with their undulations.  Among them, one can read space, prairie, light, wind, earth Clearly, Hazard’s interest in ecology and land preservation, as well as climate is a “chord” that harmonizes well with Brown’s work in the next room.

Scott Hazard, Stone, Drop, Trace, paper, hand-stamped text, acrylic, 16” x 16” x 8”, 2017.  Photo courtesy of Adah Rose Gallery.

The Song of Earth Has Many Different Chords, Adah Rose Gallery, November 9, 2020 – December 31, 2020.  3766 Howard Ave., Kensington, MD 20805. Gallery open every day by appointment.  Call (301) 922-0162.  In most cases, appointments can be accommodated within 30 minutes of the request.


[1] Cf. https://www.projectivecity.com/scott-hazard-silent-geography/

[2] https://scotthazard.net/section/142181-Text-Constructs.html