Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Erin Curtis

Nightsky, acrylic and mixed media on paper, 23.5" x 9"
My art review for a show in March 2012

Conduit Gallery has the best project room in town, and if you think you have read that from me before then you would be correct, but it is worth repeating. To prove my point, Conduit is exhibiting the work of Erin Curtis, who graces the project room with her very colorful and almost irreverent approach to painting. I see a true break from a 500 year old stretched canvas tradition.

In order to innovate, Erin Curtis reaches further back to tapestries and textile arts for inspiration. In a work like “Zodiac,” the canvas is hung on the wall with rod and string and flows down like a flag. The string is draped over a decorative cube that acts as a means of hanging the canvas and as a colorful counterpart to the canvas. The canvas is painted with bright earthy colors that repeat with patterns, but it also has random elements. I see a little crazy quilt influence, a little Southwest Native American rug consideration, and a whole lot of world traveling experience seeing textiles which have come into play in each of Curtis’ paintings.

In contrast to the tapestry paintings, there are framed paintings like “Best California Parking.” This work floats in the frame, but the painting still feels like a segment of ancient textile, only the image depicts a very modern building. Curtis’ color choices make the building and background feel folksy while the image is clearly a tough urban setting. The lines in the sky and building give the picture an orderly minimal structure only broken by the chaos of the hap hazard lines of the ground. It would seem that Curtis has mastered a balance of order and chaos in each of these works.

Erin Curtis is very skillful at blurring the lines between the established fine arts and the craft world. Curtis is hybridizing the painting and textile influences to create a conflicting aesthetic experience. On the one hand, the traditional painter in me is shocked and pained by what I see, but the Post Modern art punk in me says, “right on Curtis, be fearless in your art production!”

Erin Curtis’ work is up with Ludwig Schwarz and Joe Mancuso. Schwarz’s exhibition mixes painting with assemblage sculpture that so interests me, that his show deserves a separate review. I hope I can fit him in the next few weeks. All three shows run to March 24th.
More images of the show at

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