William T. Carson and Rebecca Rothfus Harrell
Camiba Art, Austin, Texas 07.14.18
I love two person shows that are high contrast. And nothing I have seen recently could be more high contrast than rock coal art next to flat, 1970s style minimal abstraction works.
What I love about Carson’s work is his dedication to composition. Though the pieces are coal bits of various sizes glued to wood, they somehow are formed into concise compositions with the same push/pull and tension/release you’d find in any good abstract painting. The fact there is no color just highlights Carson’s excellent skills as a visual artist. Being able to use new materials with traditional techniques are what many of us art fans live for. His connection to coal seems profound, and the care and love with which he made these pieces comes across.
Harrell’s flat, laborious work stood out from Carson’s in that there were essentially no textures, this of course highlights the picture plane in a traditional way all paint heads love.
Her colors are light lending to the flatness of her forms & were varied but expect no bio morphism or improvisation from her work. The lines are drawn intentionally and patiently, slowly, extremely planned. I tend to find this boring but I can appreciate what it takes to be able to compose slowly on a flat surface and in the end the compositions work. Some of her pieces seem to have at times multiple light sources but this fact was taken apart by the forms. No gloss or sheen took away from the flatness of Harrell’s work.
I would absolutely call Harrell’s work drawings, but yeah there is gouache (I think?) but the forms are defined with pencil (I think?). IDK, I have seen her work for years in various formats large and small over the years and I think these are good pieces but I also enjoy contrasts in a single work when possible; a circle or texture that creates a dialogue (I hate that word though). I was reminded of the art genre Rayonism (look it up) and the emphasis on light rays in that genre of painting. Harrell, if she has seen someone like Natalia Goncharova’s work, would have simplified and condensed that influence into more concise forms, shapes from nature that were like placing a magnifying glass over the coal in Carson’s pieces (though there are no straight lines in nature).
The Camiba @ Flatbed space is not huge and this helped to make the works in the space intimate. None of the pieces were particularly large in scale nor did they need to be. Camiba has a knack for presenting clean, often minimal art shows, and they are always tasteful and never onerhung. Having seen some of their recent shows I think this two-person show stands out as one of their best primarily due to the high contrast nature of the two artists. I hope we can see more top-notch curating/shows like this in the future in Austin.