Jim WillIams  “Hybrid Structures”

January 2012 – March 10, 2012

Featuring one of you college professors’ art in your own successful gallery long after graduation must be one of those daydreams of the undergrad, particularly when you have succeeded as an artist in your own right.  Thus, the very happy combination of Jim Williams, U.C professor, and Mark Patsfall, erstwhile student.  Patsfall’s Clay Street Press Gallery  seems to have been made for such surprising art.  Small, as galleries go ,  but just right for the intimacy of prints with the plethora of possibilities presented in “Hybrid Structures”.

At Clay Street, there seems to be no end to highly innovative concepts, and excitement.  Indeed ‘excitement’ is the word that shouted out from Jim Williams’ full-sheet abstract monotypes.  Black and white has seldom looked so elegant and absorbing.  Williams’ methods are a bit non-traditional, but monotypes open doors to myriad creative options.  If it can be printed, it becomes the art.  In this case, nothing  is beyond the pale.  Found objects , those darlings of contemporary art, are the means of these depth-and-texture –laden compositions.   Concrete, meal pieces, anything with one flat side and guesswork description are deftly composed into massive, strong pieces that hypnotize in their ability to imply space and dimension.  Shapes appear and reappear in companion prints, slightly altered by position of tone.  They echo themselves again in tissue stencils screenprinted over and under other shapes, judiciously inserting solid areas to magnify the importance of textures.

The gallery features  a little raised stage area which seems to have become an installation show place.  Whatever is arranged in this space takes on characteristics of an installation show place.  Whatever is arranged in this space assumes the importance of a nearly separate exhibit.  In this show, the  stencils used in these prints are pinned to the  back and side walls of this area, along with the tissue from which they were cut.  Many of the backgrounds in Williams’ work utilize creases which are easily printed  from crumpled tissue.  It’s tempting to try to associate the paper shapes with the final prints in which they were used.  Hung as single exhibit, the delicate forms seem almost to dance across the walls in contrast to the weight and intellectual quality of the framed prints.

Huge shapes, often one atop another, form some pre-historic monolithic structures reminiscent of Stonehenge.  That ancient English site could easily have served as the inspiration for nearly all of the eleven  prints shown.  (Five of which had already been sold less than a week after the opening.  These are all very reasonably priced, but I must believe the undeniable quality is the most significant factor in their popularity.)

Composition can be learned, of course, but  Williams’ personal style of fine composition seems more intuitive than learned.  Obvious shapes, over less obvious shapes, over delicate textures, etc., all floating, or falling through some viscous, ever-changing universe.  This is a kinds of art which kaleidoscopes with the individual eye and mood.  Every viewer is free to find his or her own utopia in the many levels of these inventions.

Titles follow the ambiguity of their subjects.  “Slice” and “Shaman” are two of the more direct pieces, with a hint of a figure or simpler structure,  while “Fracture” is a jewel  of complication.  There’s “Hovering”, “Hemmed In”, “Pursuit”, “Journey”, all suggesting facets of very human daily existence.  interpreted  through the detritus of that existence.

Close by the entrance of the Gallery, an Additional four prints from the 1970’s are show.  They almost seem to be from another artist, illustrating, as they do, how much our vision changes as we grow.  These are all untitled relief print and collage works, beautifully printed but  smacking more of surrealism than the layers of abstraction in the artist’s current work.  The remaining eleven were printed in the past  year, in some hurricane of activity.  The beauty of monotype is that every mark prompts another mark, another idea, and another step forward into unexplored territory.  While no actual dimension exists in “Hybrid Structures”, the implied projections of tactile levels slips easily into reality with minimal imagination.

–Fran Watson

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