A group show of paintings presented by The Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP), entitled In Situ, opened December 21 at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The exhibition features new paintings by artists Jil Evans, James Holmberg, and Cristi Rinklin – three contemporary artists interested in establishing an intentional and coherent connection between their paintings and the space they occupy.
The phrase in situ, translated from the Latin, means “in the original location,” and here refers to paintings designed for a specific
place. Most painters today create individual paintings without knowing their eventual surroundings. The three artists represented
in this exhibition use color, lighting, and placement to draw attention to the individual paintings and lead the viewer through a
progression of experiences.
Evans, Holmberg and Rinklin share an interest in the relationship between abstraction and observation, the mechanics of
implying space in a painting and a trust in the process of painting as a process of discovery. However, their methods of engaging
these ideas differ dramatically.
The two large paintings by Evans are her response to the work of 18th-century Italian baroque master, Giovanni Batista Tiepolo,
whose work is characterized by the constantly shifting and disorienting articulation of space. Tiepolo’s large ceiling and wall
pieces envelop a viewer within the space they occupy. For “In Situ”, Evans sought to recreate the sensation she experienced in
the presence of Tiepolo’s work, to the extent that one of the paintings is actually suspended from the ceiling. In each work Evans
mediates the tensions between clearly defined form and spontaneous gesture. She has always been interested in how and why
certain sites and phenomena can intensify experience. In her gestural paintings, entitled Fallen Angels, Evans contrasts the
struggle between aspiration and reality through her use of large forms that embody a sense of mass which has been created
through a series of energetic brushstrokes.
James Holmberg’s luscious, large-scale paintings evoke atmospheric landscapes of primordial space. His work is sparked by an
interest in the idea of infinite space, which he recognizes at both a macro and micro level. He see an affinity between the
sensation of openness one feels when gazing at the all-encompassing space of the sky, the vastness of an ocean, the void of the
desert, and the detail of a cell seen through a microscope. He suggests that affinity in his paintings through dramatic contrasts of
scale and focus. Situated alongside these vast canvases are smaller square paintings whose hazy color bands seem to hover in
and out of focus. This radical shift in scale hints at the ways image-gathering technologies enable us to “see” the infinitesimally
small or the incomprehensibly vast.
Cristi Rinklin’s concern with the limits of reality, cosmic space, and infinity have haunted her since childhood. Her studio is
filled with sketches, collages, and other printed ephemera. Rinkin unites these disparate elements by overlapping images and
imposing framing devices within the paintings. She creates a wonderland of holes of every variety; windows, orifices, portals, and
apertures. These filtering devices function by acknowledging that the world is viewed through the narrow lens of our own
experience. Her paintings provide a space in which contradictory elements can coexist while capitalizing on the tensions that
juxtapositions can engender. Rinklin’s oval paintings contain representational fragments and abstract elements that are
simultaneously playful and threatening. That dichotomy extends to frames painted directly onto the wall around some of the
work. Rinklin’s success lies in her ability to hold these internal contradictions in precarious balance.
These three painters are fully invested in creating work of beauty. They refute the idea that intellectual goals and visual beauty are
mutually exclusive. For them, painting can appeal to the eye and challenge the mind.
Looking Glass Landscape, 2001,
oil on canvas