The Housatonic Museum is pleased to present Close to the Line: Mari Rantanen and Kirsten Reynolds, an investigation of geometric abstraction through a performative lens. Curated by Barbara O’Brien, the exhibition will be on view in the Burt Chernow Galleries at the Housatonic Museum Art September 5 – October 12, 2019. A reception with the artists and curator will be held on Thursday, September 5 from 6-7:30 p.m. This event is free, and the public is cordially invited to attend.
According to curator O’Brien, “Close to the Line will reconsider the history of 20th century geometric abstraction, its evolution and place in the 21st century. The expression and intention of the artist will be in active dialogue with the experience of the viewer. Large-scale works will tread lightly between painting, sculpture, architecture and the performative.”
For the exhibit “Close to the Line” Reynolds will exhibit two new architectural installations. In the front gallery, viewers can walk through “Switchback,” 2019 a cluster of trestle-style wood frames supporting several large fragments of decorative arcs. The arcs appear to whirl around and settle near a painted platform on the floor, creating a theatrical “stage” of perpetual motion. In the back gallery, “post” 2019 will be comprised of a smaller arrangement of faux architectural elements. The title “post” implies both a starting or finishing point in the process of construction or deconstruction.
Poised between perpetual creation and imminent collapse, Reynold’s large-scale, site-specific architectural installations activate the agency of uncertainty. Her work explores language, architecture and the body as inter-related constructs that become flexible and emergent through humor, curiosity and wonder. Faux finishes and painted patterns on wooden forms playfully exaggerate the architectural materials and complicate their physical presence, rendering architecture as unstable and performative. Reynold’s absurd tableaus create a space between fact and fiction that the viewer can enter, becoming a participant in an irresolvable narrative.
Reynolds has exhibited widely, most recently at the Boston Sculptors Gallery, the McIninch Gallery at Southern New Hampshire University; the Museum of Art, University of New Hampshire; the Blue Star Contemporary Museum, San Antonio, Texas; the Currier Museum, Manchester New Hampshire, and the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln Massachusetts. She holds a BFA from Syracuse University and an MFA from Maine College of Art. Reynolds is the recipient of numerous awards including the Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, New Hampshire State Council for the Arts Artist Grant. She lives and works in Newmarket, New Hampshire with her husband and two children.
Born in Espoo, Finland, Mari Rantanen has had a distinguished, international career including a professorship at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts from 1996-2005. Commissions to design large scale architectural public art works include the NIttykumpu Metro Station in Espoo, Finland and the Citybanan Odenplan Metro Station in Stockholm Sweden, both 2017. For more than 20 years, Rantanen has maintained a studio practice in Stockholm, Sweden, Tammela, Finland, andNew York City. She studied at Pratt Institute in New York City and at the School of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland. In the past few years alone, Rantanen has had solo exhibitions in France, Finland, Sweden, Germany and at Art Helix and the United States.
For “Close to the Line,” Rantanen will show large-scale paintings, abutted in sets of three, to create an enveloping experience of vivid color and glowing light. Many of the paintings are from the 2017 are from the series, “There is a Crack in Everything. That is How the Light Comes In” – the series title borrowed from the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. The sets of paintings, mural-like in scale, will fill the peripheral vision of the viewer and create an evolving experience as the visitor moves through the gallery, suggesting looking at an idea or subject matter from different points of departure.
Rantanen’s signature palette of glowing, bright oranges, reds, pinks and greens create a near opart experience of vibrating geometric forms. The palette is given a classical counterpoint with the addition of gold and silver created from German pigments mixed with acrylic. A marvelous, light filled space is created through the placement of side-by-side geometric forms; ovoid, triangles, stripes, dots, and hatch marks. In her paintings, color bears the emotional quality and feelings, while the geometric forms bring a narrative quality.
“My work,” says Rantanen, “reflects life via culture. I am especially interested in architecture and painting - places people have made. The history and presence of visual culture, the different systems and patterns that make life visible both as it is seen in the everyday life as well as in the high culture are of great importance to me. I want to combine element of different cultures through my own experiences as well as interpret the experiences of others as I them understand. With my work I hope to make good places and spaces for emotions.
Barbara O’Brien is an independent curator and critic based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was Executive Director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri from 2012-2017, after serving as chief curator and director of exhibitions since 2009. O’Brien is an elected member of AICA-USA, International Association of Art Critics. “I am delighted to be working with the Housatonic Museum and director Robbin Zella. I am grateful for the opportunity to bring together the art of Mari Rantanen and Kirsten Reynolds to create a dialogue around the art and artists of our time.”
Prior to her time at the Kemper Museum, O’Brien was an assistant professor in the Art & Music department at Simmons College in Boston (2006-08), editor-in-chief of Art New England magazine (2003-06) and Director of the Gallery and Visiting Artist Program at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA (1990-2001). O’Brien earned an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and in 2006 was awarded the RISD national alumni award for professional achievement.