Last Call: Aaron Collier at Cole Pratt Gallery

It’s the last weekend to catch Aaron Collier's "Broken Star" at Cole Pratt Gallery. Before it's gone, Emily Wilkerson reviews.

Aaron Collier, All Interruptions Aren't Mannerless, 2011. Oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist and Cole Pratt Gallery, New Orleans.

All Interruptions Aren’t Mannerless, 2011: among remnants of solid black and grey a storm of colorful lines and shapes collide forces. The abstract paintings in Aaron Collier's latest exhibition highlight moments that fall out of our control, but also those that we ourselves may disrupt—after all, the interruptions in Collier’s paintings are expressions guided by hand. In these works, Collier recalls memories of his grandmother’s painstakingly sewn quilts, reflecting on their presence in his life as a child as well as his current understanding of these objects and their construction.

Almost by definition, abstract painting calls to mind gesture, or mark making, to represent emotion without recognizable imagery, but abstraction can also offer a glimpse of how we perceive or remember something, extracted from a larger idea. The quilts’ precision and beauty that Collier remembers clearly from childhood form the foundation of his understanding of personal ritual and structure, and he approaches these memories and sentiments through his relationship with abstraction and the medium of painting.

Collier laboriously composes his works, building texture through layers of markings and impasto. In contrast to abstract painters such as Sarah Cain, who alter the material of the canvas or seem intent to move beyond it, Collier focuses entirely on the paint. Waves and Diamonds, 2012, exemplifies Collier’s relationship with paint as a tool to create tension. In this work, bold unidentifiable shapes, diamond and zigzag patterns, and solid black marks swarm the canvas. At the same time, watery black paint drips down the bottom of the canvas, slowly fading away and allowing color to filter through, while bright blues beam through scratches on the smooth white and grey waves at the top of the work.

In many of the paintings, a quilt-like pattern is visible. Such is the case with Broken Star, 2012, in which a patchwork star looms behind an encroaching rhombus, repeating lines, and messy segments of saturated color. In other works, organized markings give way to pockets of chaos. In Can’t Go Home This Way, 2012, an orderly geometric pattern begs the viewer to find evidence of a misstep. In this case, one small swirling mound of white and grey paint hangs above the surface or hints at a vortex beyond it. Collier has called painting “the perfect medium for picturing paradox” and his abstract works do in fact accomplish just that—as viewers we find ourselves searching for and embracing both the structure and the interruptions.

Aaron Collier, Broken Star, 2012. Oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist and Cole Pratt Gallery, New Orleans.

Editor's Note

"Broken Star" is on view through November 25, 2012 at Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine Street.