September 18, 2014

Red Funnel II, 2014, a/c on linen, 42 x 36'

Cold Light, 2014, acrylic on panel, 20 x 24'

Barbara Takenaga @ Gregory Lind

Known for mandala-like forms composed of glowing dots, New York painter Barbara Takenaga continues to explore the concept of infinity with an expanded vocabulary. It now includes gaseous clouds, swirling nebulae, dotted globes and vortex-like forms set atop thinly painted grounds. Where the mandala paintings were, for the most part, resolutely anti-illusionist, her latest works run in the opposite direction. They depict imaginary notions of deep space, leaning as much on P&D and Pop Surrealist notions of what's out there as on NASA. This combination of fiction and science is alluring, spooky, and every bit as psychedelic as what came before. The main difference, besides the iconography, is that this work summons viewers into the imagined space without relying on vanishing points, a repeated device in many of the earlier works. While the candy colors Takenaga uses to create atmospherics sometimes feel a bit much, that same quality also situates the work squarely and powerfully into the realm of the New Sublime, a designation that seeks to update the old notion of shock and awe before nature. Though the word sublime was originally applied to 19th century romantic landscape painting, there's no reason why it shouldn't serve as a conceptual framework for art that depicts the cosmos, however phantasmagorical.

These paintings walk us right up to the place where fascination meets terror. There's the ecoplasmic Cold Light, a vaporous cloud suspended on a web of bead-like orbs; Silver Grid, an Op-ish geometric abstraction, warped in the manner of Bridget Riley; and Red Swoop Above Silver Gray, consisting of a serpentine shape that unfurls, top-to-bottom, in a series of interlocking S-curves. Equally compelling are Red Funnel II and Red Thing, projections of celestial light set against blood-red grounds. The objects from which that light emanates are a pointy tailed flying saucer (Red Funnel II) and a parachute-like dome (Red Thing). Aura Arch, the outlier in the group, brings to mind satellite views of a toxic planet, rendered as a Pop/romantic mash-up of Keith Haring and Darren Waterston: jaggy and luminous all at once.

As the artist explained in a catalog that accompanied a show last year at DC Moore in New York: "This wackiness opens the door for me to paint about the big things, without, I hope, being melodramatic. I want it to feel like there is this looming thing either above or way off, some enormous presence." This display of 10 modestly scaled paintings achieves that goal.