“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability…. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
Nurit Avesar’s solo exhibition, “Elemental Energies,” exemplifies the power that creativity can impart when the artist is willing to approach her work by relinquishing control and embracing discovery. A reflection of her ongoing material exploration, Avesar’s latest series of mixed media paintings pulsates with a vibrant incandescence where splashes of color erupt up and out from roughly worked and layered surfaces that combine paint, paper, cheese cloth, and string with fabric, rust, graphite and window screening.
The initial steps in Avesar’s process are rudimentary and involve the thick application of acrylic paint along with paper to canvas. Once these materials dry, however, Avesar digs in with complete abandon by arming herself with an electric sander. According to Avesar, the doing is in the content, and the sander is just one aspect of her practice that underscores the physicality of her art-making.
The weathered textures Avesar achieves from the sander generate engaging patterns where sharp edges and rugged shapes interrupt the fluency of both color and texture. Even more, they evoke the long and cyclical nature of deposition and erosion. Far Away and Long Ago (2016) is exemplary of such, its tranquil palette a fluid blend of nuanced hues. Peering out from a harmonious blend of pastel blue, gray, and violet, fragments of white paper glisten like crystalized calcite exposed to natural sunlight.
Avesar also looks to a number of rigid utensils, such as a bamboo wok brush, to scrape through the impasto and various collaged elements that comprise her compositions. By aggressively assaulting and rigorously reworking each of her layered surfaces, she approaches her practice as an excavation of sorts, where the chance for discovery brings with it an unearthing of hidden histories.
Although abstract and process oriented, Avesar’s work speaks largely to personal vulnerability. Green Wall (2015), in particular, beautifully captures the fragile nature of raw disclosure. Much of the piece is an amalgam of bright blues and greens that together capture the soothing effect of rippling water. From underneath, however, a smattering of red, brown, yellow, and orange emerge like a festering old wound that no longer can be quelled.
While Avesar’s almost haphazard approach of adding and deducting adds dimension to her work, she also achieves depth by immersing small pieces of stretched cheesecloth and window screening into her paper and paint. Reminiscent of Mark Bradford’s abstract paintings, the grid-like imagery that these materials yield resemble tiny topographic maps. Voyage (2016), for example, reads like an aerial shot of a large landmass where gridded textures represent populated cities spanning across a diverse terrain of cavernous valleys and snowcapped mountains.
Both aesthetically engaging and thought provoking, “Elemental Energies” embodies an unexpected sense of calm that welcomes viewers to stop and contemplate the complexities that inhabit our innermost selves. Not only do each of Avesar’s mixed media paintings resonate with uninhibited fervor, but collectively they make that much more of an impact, linked together by a continuous albeit mercurial narrative that exposes vulnerability’s potential for reflection, growth and understanding.
Curated by Dulce Stein, “Elemental Energies” ran at the Neutra Institute Gallery & Museum in Los Angeles from February 20 through March 12.