Eva Speer’s works at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art in Portland, Oregon, demonstrate the artist mixing the expressive qualities of abstraction and minimalism with a rich materiality. The fourteen works in Alone Together (all 2013) combine the cool sensibility of synthetic materials with candy colors and natural forms, and the effect is often impressive.
As the title Alone Together suggests, many of the panels in Speer’s Game series have two or more bodies of latex paint set adrift on a fifteen-by-fifteen-inch hand-cast dyed resin panel. Game #4 is one of the standouts in this series, a half-inch-thick ruby red square that glistens like an outsize cherry candy, with two drifts of pinkish-white and red marbled latex. The paint is built up thickly—sculpturally—like fondant, and there is a very sensual play of textures and colors. If the two paint forms are indeed alone together, then they seem to yearn for one another: their facing edges have a symmetry, so that the left mass has a concavity just where the right mass is convex; one can imagine them fitting together like continents before a rupture.
Game #5, another panel of dyed resin, creates the effect of a shadowy mountain rising in the distance behind a fluorescent yellow and white landscape. Sinister and rain-soaked, it is surprisingly reminiscent of Oregon vistas despite the materials and coloration of the latex vista in the foreground. Likewise, Game #1’s marbled paint in greenish-yellow and black reaching vertically up the dyed panel forms dense triangular shapes that recall the side of a steep pine-covered mountain. Perhaps such associations are not intended—from the titles of the works and the information in the gallery, it’s not clear whether the artist intended to elicit this reading. Nevertheless, it’s impressive that Speer has been able to evoke majestic and sublime environments from these materials.
Also in the show are Speer’s Echo Boxes, which are made by casting resin against an old plank. Unlike the smooth Game panels, the surfaces of the Boxes are rough and grained, and though they are still translucent, their glow is softer. Echo Box #3 is a bright Jello blue with a dark, mysterious object partially hidden in its interior. From the gallery information, the viewer knows that this object is a piece of wood; without this tip-off, it might otherwise remain an enigma since the rough grain of the surface prevents a clear view. Echo Box #1 is a deep rose color, with marbled masses of latex paint reminiscent of washes and tides and the places where land and water meet. As with the Games panels, I found the paint forms evocative of two islands, with a tributary flowing south between them.
To call these works attractive is to perhaps undermine the alluring dissonance of the organic forms playing against the plastic colors and materials. Yet above all, the rich, artificial coloration and translucency of the panels and boxes are primarily seductive, and it’s only after inspecting the works up close that the more temporal, natural forms of the marbled paint and wood grain reveal something more wild and elemental. Speer will be exhibiting her work again next year in the Apex gallery of the Portland Art Museum, and one can only hope that she continues to explore the productive tension between synthetic materials and natural forms.
Eva Speer: Alone Together is on view at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art through September 28, 2013.