February 2–April 7, 2018
Gallery Luisotti is delighted to present Catherine Wagner: Near Abstraction, the artist’s ninth solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition draws from Greenhouse Abstractions (1976) and In Situ: Traces of Morandi (2015–16). These two series explore the idea of modernist abstraction while utilizing physical objects and spaces. For over four decades, Wagner’s observant eye has investigated the built environment and the histories of places and objects.
In Situ: Traces of Morandi is the striking and colorful culmination of two years spent in residence at the Casa Morandi in Bologna and Giorgio Morandi’s country home in Grizzana. Wagner carefully arranges Morandi’s storied objects on top of a tabletop and casts a filtered light across them. The colored gels shift the setting to an imagined realm a degree removed from the room Wagner found herself in. The series builds upon Wagner’s skill in isolating objects to reveal something about their state of being; in this case, their existence across time resonates most strongly. This is most clear because the objects are only depicted in shadow. Prior series that focused on the isolation of objects include Museum Pieces, Reclassifying History, and A Narrative History of the Light Bulb.
The play of forms and colors is highlighted by the presentation of each photograph. Each work is mounted to a thin aluminum plate and floats on the wall, creating a field of colors. Ranging from yellow to blue to dark ochre. The shadows are richly complex; their density is modulated with some shadows becoming wispy traces of the vases and boxes from Morandi’s life. The colors are a specific reference to oft-ignored traces of bright pigment within Morandi’s paintings. The prints themselves are rendered with a fine almost powder like pigmenting that allows the colors to take a prominent visual role.
Displayed in a neat row along the gallery’s back wall, a selection of some of Wagner’s earliest photographic works depict early experimentations with using found materials to create abstracted photographic imagery. The sheeting and screens of a commercial greenhouse in Marin take on a new dimension as Wagner plays with their inherent opacity and the changing atmospheric conditions in the region.
By presenting these two series side by side, a full circle trajectory about the borders of abstraction in Wagner’s practice comes into clear view.
California artist Catherine Wagner has observed and photographed the systems within contemporary culture for over thirty years. Working internationally, she focuses on the cultural constructs in both their physical and symbolic manifestations. Her images insightfully examine environments from museums and science labs to private homes and Disneyland. Recipient of the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowships and the Artadia Award, her works are in major public and private collections, including the LA County Museum of Art, SFMOMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, MOMA, and the MFA Houston. Publications of her work include American Classroom, Art & Science: Investigating Matter and Cross Sections.