SimaySpace Best Picks - Doug Simay / Current Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions 2016
National Museum of Women in the Arts
CONTINUING AND RECOMMENDED
With paintings that are both meticulously illusionistic and drunkenly abstract, Kristin Leachman has stayed her course and slowly refined it to the point of maturity. The patterns of trompe l’oeil strips of fabric that formerly stuck right to the surface of the picture plane give way to bunching and meandering that releases baroque energy, opens up the . visual space, and introduces a plethora of imaginative associations. Built as they are on sustained discipline and patient execution makes this energy very convincing, elevating them well beyond the mere depiction of skeins , of yam. The broken patterns amount to visual sustenance. Indeed, the fixed size of each of the five works on view (and five is quite enough), 75 x 13 1/2 inches, functions like a door that invites you to try to squeeze through. Artists love to make you wonder what lies beyond the edge; few are doing this better than Leachman (Newspace Gallery, Hollywood).
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
AROUND THE GALLERIES
By CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT
Times Staff Writer
Weaving body and
Kristin Leachman has been basing her paintings’ subject matter on domestic activities like weaving, knitting and braiding for about a decade, but it isn’t that conventional, even academic feminist trope that makes them so compelling. Her tangled knots of cascading yarn and braided cloth, painted in rich oil colors on tall birch panels that stand a few inches out from the wall, suggest everything from woodland waterfalls to undersea coral reefs, distant galaxies and animal viscera. Like the universe glimpsed in a grain of sand, her work plays with scale in marvelous ways.
Each of the five paintings at Newspace stands just over 6 feet tall and 1 foot wide. They pull you in close, mirroring your upright body, and the luxurious paint handling emphasizes the panel’s surface skin. The representational imagery keeps collapsing into brushstrokes that are calligraphic in nature, recalling the action of the hand and wrist. Leachman intensifies a sense of intimacy that is at once sensual and contemplative, stitching together the body and the mind in ways our culture usually keeps split. She calls this body of work “House Spirits,” and the title fits.
Newspace: 5241 Melrose Ave., Hollywood (323) 469-9353
www.newspacela.com, through May 7. Closed Sunday and Monday.
LA Weekly – Art Pick of the Week
by Peter Frank December 13-19, 2002
ART PICK OF THE WEEK
By Peter Frank
The effect of Kristin Leachman’s “braid paintings” :
What seem at first stripey, luminous abstractions reveal themselves as densely crosshatched planes, their beveled units interlinking to suggest the surfaces of tightly woven rugs. It’s a handsome formula, but Leachman isn’t satisfied with simply cranking out illusory color fields. In this show’s immense (19 foot-long) centerpiece, these cascading mat patterns give way to a sequence of visual non sequiturs. That is, each group of images makes sense in and of itself, but in the picaresque horizontal sequence of groups, another, less stable and more purely lyrical logic prevails, linking figures with flat non-objective shapes, rainy veils with transparent silhouettes, flat bright color with advancing and receding shades of gray. Never a dull moment.
Kristin Leachman at Newspace,5241 Melrose Ave. (323) 469-9353. Thru December 21.
Art in America
by Michael Duncan July 2001
Kristin Leachman at Newspace
For the past few years, Kristin Leachman has experimented with a single, unusual subject: painted depictions of vertical sections of braided rugs. Meticulously rendered in oil on wood, her images of interwoven fabric read as mottled stripes. Her project enables her to meld an appreciation for hand-made domestic crafts with the austere traditions of formalist abstraction. Each skein of three strands-usually in complementary colors-creates a diagonally crosshatched pattern. For the most part, the colors of the skeins are irregularly spaced, offering a kind of overall abstract composition. By nature handmade and wobbly, the braids form a field of funkily hand-drawn, multicolored lines.
Leachman’s 1999 group of paintings examined the effects of light on the rugs, and her newest body of work (everything in this show was dated 2000) takes that exploration into a more sophisticated, painterly realm. Now emerging from richer, darker hues, centralized sections of the paintings glow as if in harsh sunlight. The glare disrupts the regularity of the braids, dissolving sections of the stripes into a hazy, fluid field. These shimmering areas evoke the subtle color explorations of painters such as Joe Goode and Pat Steir. Leachman performs the clever and surprising trick of shifting the Rothko-derived effects of the Light and Space movement into the craft-friendly arena of Pattern and Decoration. But, like Jim lsermann’s mind-bending geometric rug works, Leachman’s paintings transcend the usual categories. Her interests in film making and stained glass feed her conceptually rich painting project. The light in the center sections of the darkly hued, square panels, as in Bluemont and Culpepper, pierces the frame like a sunbeam through a cathedral window, while the ghostlike effects of light crossing the horizontal expanses of larger works such as Rancho Cucamonga and Angeles Crest seem the result of a cinematic filter.
Leachman uses the hard surfaces of her birch supports to control the paintings’ precise tonal effects. With an unexpected complexity that transcends its down-home subject matter, her work explores the elemental properties and interaction of geometry, color and composition in abstract painting.
Los Angeles Times
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2000
By DAVID PAGEL
At Newspace Gallery, seven new oils on panel are more complicated and more ambitious. Gone is the bilateral symmetry. So. too the sequential consistency of the color shifts within each spiraling strand.
In addition, the width of the bands varies more dramatically. With meandering contours that break away from the neatly squared geometry of an ideal grid, Leachman’s stripes curve more than before. So swollen are some that they resemble the silhouettes of snakes that have just swallowed whole animals.
While each painting’s swaying side-to-side movement increases, its illusionistic depth diminishes. The shading that gives Leachman’s earlier works their trompe l’oeil volume and reassuring familiarity has been eliminated. Now, each vaguely triangular section of every strand has the presence of a flat tile that makes up a mosaic’s fragmented surface.
The most significant transformation that has taken place involves Leachman’s treatment of light. Where previous works ard illuminated by an even, all-over glow, the new ones include bright sections that recall the glare of improperly shot flash photographs. These hot spots contrast dramatically with the deep shadows around them. Rather than evoking the comforts of home, Leachman’s increasingly shady paintings call to mind the dark side of domesticity, disturbing experiences often swept under the rug.
Historically; her works resurrect Photo-Realism, a short -lived style that flourished in the early 1970s before being buried by an avalanche of negative critical assessment. So despised is this style that few contemporary painters are willing to touch it with a 10-foot pole, much less to share its chilly embrace of artifice. Treading where few dare venture, Leachman weaves together aspects of photographic reproduction, abstract painting and typically feminine crafts – all the better to pull the rug out from under your feet.
Newspace Gallery, 5241. Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 469-9353, through Jan. 6. Closed Sundays and Mondays
Los Angeles Times
by Leah Ollman April 16, 1999
By LEAH OLIMAN
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Kristin Leachman isn’t the only artist who feminizes the hard edges of the Miniimalist grid, but she does so with an earnestness unusual among her peers. Leachman’s vibrantly beautiful paintings at Newspace appear from a distance to be hooked and braided rugs hanging on the wall. Painted “braided” stripes of color meander down each panel in a consistent pattern, but with all the lumpy irregularity of plaited yam or fabric. It’s a gentle homage to the handworked rug, and Leachman weaves into it a quiet nostalgia that feels refreshingly free of irony.
Two of the three large paintings hanging in the main gallery “Rhyme and Reason” and “Bird in Hand” bear titles that bring to mind the truisms on needlework samplers. The third, “Field and Stream,” conjures another slice of mainstream Americana, through a luminous, shimmering orchestra of color. Like variegated yam, the colors braided into rows in the painting continually vary in intensity, creating a seductive, ever shifting surface.
Leachman’s pencil drawings also evoke the padded softness of braided rugs, but more ambiguously. The individual pencil lines double as strands of hair, transforming the rug surface into a poetically inspired field of braided tresses. Leachman’s technique is meticulous and exquisite. In a few of the drawings, it reveals itself in areas where the pattern is outlined but not filled in or fleshed out. The predictability of the pattern offers the reassurance of the known, the familiar, while the nuance in Leachman’s own touch lifts the process into a higher realm.
Process itself is key to meaning. here. Leachman hints as much by titling many of the works with a month or time of day, reinforcing the link between the doing of the work. and its ultimate being. In translating the humble, repetitive action of braiding and hooking rugs into the medium of painting, Leachman shifts the terms of the works’ reception. considerably, from domestic setting to rarefied art site, from the floor to the wall. But the transcendent, meditative potential of the repetitive act remains the same, binding her work in spirit to artists like Ann Hamilton or Agnes Martin. Like them, Leachman renders the humble sublime.
Newspace, 5241 Melrose Ave., (323) 469-1120, through May 1. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Los Angeles Times
by Susan Kandel October 3, 1997
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1997
By SUSAN KANDEL
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Beauty In ‘Comfort’: Kristin Leachman’s new paintings at Newspace are persuasive on a number of counts. In another situation, this might say something about a young artist’s lack of resolve or need to cover all the bases. Here, however, it reveals a great deal about Leachman’s ambition and her refusal to pit the theoretical against the beautiful.
Some of these images depict grids of coiled. pieces of fabric; others, wayward braids of ribbon. Leachman is interested in illusion and its extreme-trompe l’oeil. Indeed, these paintings are at once like photographs, true to every detail, and like concentrated essences, distilling details into larger truth.
“Comfort” is the show’s title,which makes sense at first, considering that the reference point is those handcrafted rugs that are passed down from generation to generation. Yet the paintings’ technical perfection-and the fact that trompe l’oeil transforms the real into a fetish-renders the promise of comfort an unlikely one.
Leachman’s work also tweaks those perennial modernist favorites-grid and stripe paintings. Recasting modernist masterpieces via domestic materials and processes is a familiar feminist tactic, from Rachel Lachowicz’s lipstick Serras to Didi Dunphy’s embroidered homages to Mondrian. Yet Leachman never perfects the fine art of critique, a genre that looks increasingly illusory, for it requires a clinical detachment that few artists can actually muster. Leachman’s paintings are smart but hardly unimpassioned, luscious but self aware. That’s an impressive set of adjectives to have earned by your second solo show.
Newspace, 5241 Melrose Ave.,
(213) 469-9353, through Oct. 18.