Gail Hillow Watkins: Virtual Solo Exhibition

30 August 2021 - 31 March 2022
Video
Overview

These haunting references to the history of art converge with the pungent pop of the funnies. It is just this play of opposites that gives Watkins's work its particular flavor. 

Time, in its guise as history, is like the Hindu godhead: creator, preserver, and destroyer of

everything tangible. Gail Hillow Watkins summons the powers of time to create art that is simultaneously made and unmade before our eyes. She evokes the present with comic strips from the Sunday paper, and the historical past with a graceful floral motif. Together, in mixed media works, they weave a dense fabric of tenses, with then and now its warp and woof.

Watkins collages color comics in multiple layers and stencils them with the sinuous decorative design. The artist then sands the surface until she exposes strata of words and pictures that float in a kind of graphic delirium. The sanding also reveals a phantasmagoria of ghostly curves, as if we are reading an exotic cursive script written long ago. The overall effect is like looking at an ancient crumbling wall, alive with the life that once passed before it. Particularly striking is the relentless breaking down of words, pictures, and pattern until the only thing that remains clear is the sad beauty of all things that pass away. In each piece, the artist refines her technique, finding new ways to materially create a literal abstraction of loss. Watkins's pieces, while comprised of collage, paint, and mediums, resemble faded tapestries and decaying frescos.

These haunting references to the history of art converge with the pungent pop of the funnies. It is just this play of opposites that gives Watkins's work its particular flavor. Time dissolves everything, but art holds that flux still for us to see. In the warmth and gentility of Watkins's work there is a reflection of the venerable art and ruins of Italy. At the same time, the flow of form and color is regulated in a grid that is minimalist in its rigor, with row upon row of oblongs containing the evidence of unending impermanence. The grid, a surrogate for time's relentless march, holds the riotous transformation that is history's continual display.

Watkins has made work that surreptitiously alludes to the way things fall apart in each culture and in each life--and how in that continual fall is the beauty of an ever-blooming flower.

                                                                                         --John  Mendelsohn

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