Saturday, March 3, 2007
written and reviewed by Meredith Cunningham
Recently, on one of those days that screams aloud: Go out amongst the world and be of this time, I drifted into Wade Wilson Gallery in Houston begging the Universe for a morsel of something threateningly alive. A literal and concrete building situated perfectly between the museum district and the trendy part of Montrose, this gallery exists symbiotically with a number of other gallery tenants hoping to bring in the ‘three for one’ crowd. In this place is where I met Jill Moser; not the person per say, but the paintings.
This experience was for me everything that I want an art encounter to be. I walked in, probably a little too smug, and immediately felt a kind of decompression similar to swimming down too deep in a body of water and then releasing yourself to your own buoyancy. Jill Moser’s paintings are portraits of what I imagine Synesthesia to be. They are at once line and form and something that feels faintly like photography. They are musical in that completely silent way that usually means you are looking at something profound. I wondered to myself almost immediately what it was about these oil paintings that were so reminiscent of photography. Perhaps it is the thick yet pristine layers of gesso that hang on the canvases like a porcelain mask absorbing all the textures of the paint into their skin. I could have believed it was made out of just about anything if not for the edges that still give away a canvas skeleton, convincingly deliberate as if to remind itself of who it is. I am a painting.
I could have believed it was a digital print of some sort, even before I thought of drawing. This fascinated me further as I am always attracted to works that take on the conventions of material and tools and work at playing them in a manner that perhaps goes against their natural states. The practice of this kind of witchcraft is the inner scientist that exists in every artist. Even beyond the visceral experience of the material work as an art object, the installation begged attention. These paintings are deliberate in how they relate to each other. They are portraits without faces and sentences without words. The limited palette and duplicated size and orientation lead you to believe that these works are akin. This is where Moser’s painting get down to being really human. The associations I came up with remind me of the cloud game. Do you see that rabbit? No, I see a plate. But do not get too stuck in this game. It is one of those naturally occurring distractions that are an intrinsic part of these kinds of mark-making. Moser’s use of vaporous traces, long ago smudged out lines that hover around the gestures like a statement said then taken back, are ghostly. The forms that she comes up with are so related to the action of painting that one cannot help but think of bottled energy. I am delighted to have been able to look at these works and think so intensely about the life in these paintings. I am both satiated and curious to see how far she takes these ideas.