art

“Rincon # 8,” minerals and dyes on canvas over panel. The painting by Jennifer Wolf is on exhibit at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art. (Courtesy photo)

The snowfall may have paused for the moment in Telluride, but Earth’s processes never stop. Volcanic peaks protrude above fresh powder, evidence of the natural world — and the violence — that shaped the box canyon millions of years before it became a Mecca for humans attached to plexigas boards, skimming groomed slopes.

A show at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art presents the work of three artists from Southern California, a place where mountains, deserts, oceans and the forces that shaped them are ever-present.

Contemporary abstract artist James Hayward, whose daughter Ashley owns the gallery, is famous for his monochromatic, textured works of thickly applied paint, which appear to gyrate in slashes, peaks and furls across the canvas. There are several new abstract impasto works of Hayward’s on display here. The more you stare at them, the more aware you become of power and movement, not just the artist’s physical power — a septuagenarian, Hayward’s work is vital as ever— but the power of nature. “Historically, gestural abstraction has been tied to emotional register, with dynamic brushwork regarded as the carrier of expressionist meaning,” the L.A. Times critic Christopher Knight said of a recent exhibit of the artist’s at the Roberts & Tilton Gallery. “Hayward’s intense, deliberate paintings drain all of that. Instead, the experience for a viewer is like looking at a field of grass rippled by the wind without a shred of illusionistic reference to nature anywhere in the painting itself.”

Also on view here are circular pieces by Andy Moses, swirling, colorful 60-by-60-inch and 16-by-16-inch spheres he calls “Geodesy.” The turbulent, sinuous ripples of acrylic paint look as if they just might ooze off the “canvas” — a Lucite panel — if gravity didn’t contain them (they recall photos of Earth’s brilliant blue oceans and swirling clouds as seen from above). Moses’ “colourscapes,” a reviewer from GQ Magazine UK wrote, suggest “a burning, orange Sahara reflected in the sky above … (or) a marshland of opalescent, oil-spill silver.”  

The “movement” in Moses’ spheres may look random, but he is meticulous about the colors he selects, and where he places each shade in relation to another.

“There’s something of Ojai or Carmel in there, something of the optimism of the Sixties and Seventies,” Thomas Barrie wrote in GQ.

As Moses has said of his works, “I want them to refer to landscape without becoming landscape.”

Hayward and Moses are both represented by the Telluride gallery. For that matter, so was Andy Moses’ father, the pioneering artist Ed Moses — James Hayward’s good friend — who passed away in Venice, California, last January. The newcomer here is Venice artist Jennifer Wolf, whose luminous works, with titles like “Gravitational Push” or “Landscape #17,” not only suggest natural processes, she makes her paints from materials she’s gathered around the world.

“The process of mining my own pigment sources, including iron oxides, copper oxides, calcium carbonates and Carbon, has taken me to locations such as France, Peru, Brazil, North Africa and my hometown of Ventura, California,” Wolf writes on her website. “The reconstitution of these site-specific minerals into a painting medium is one of the ways I communicate ideas about history, nature and the craft involve in my own artistic production.”

Wolf’s “Rincon # 8” is beautiful and primeval: fluid, lava-like shades of red and orange that hint at a cataclysmic explosion. (It’s the sort of work you might expect from one who resides in a landscape threatened by earthquakes and wildfires.) The Gallery has paired “Fluid Motion” with a fitting exhibit, pieces of jewelry by goldsmith Barbara Heinrich and her son, emerging goldsmith Timo Krapf. Her 18K gold earrings not only recall but are derived from natural processes both ancient and otherworldly: Precious metals arrived on our planet from a bombardment of meteorites. Who knows how old a goldsmith’s materials truly are or where they ultimately came from?