Charles A. Hartman Fine Art, Portland, OR
by Richard Speer
With their immaculate white surfaces and semi-abstract filigrees, Jessica Curtaz’s line drawings emanated a minimalist panache that belied the painstaking meticulousness of their draughtsmanship. In Through the Wire, the Los Angeles-based Curtaz’s first show in Portland, the artist built up finish-fetish surfaces by layering and sanding more than a dozen layers of gesso atop her wood panels, imparting the preternatural smoothness of porcelain or powdered marble. As if floating atop these planes, her free-hand graphite drawings displayed a density and intricacy counterbalanced by broad swaths of negative space.
Graphically busy works such as Untitled (chicken wire #2) referenced chain-link fence, with large links in the foreground yielding to smaller links in a backward regress that evoked swallows, seagulls, or, more sinisterly, hornets. Other pieces, such as Untitled (jade) comported themselves more minimally, a shock of stylized botanical imagery inhabiting the picture plane’s bottom-right quadrant, the remainder of the panel empty, blanched, and frigid. Untitled (cup #2) cuts a shallow diagonal across the panel’s bottom-left corner, leaving the viewer’s eye to skim along a snowy-white color field.
Curtaz’s long-standing interests in botany and printmaking have served her well in this fastidious, process-driven style, which is not so much photorealistic as it is architectural, laying bare the structures of leaves, paper and plastic bags, and the gravity-defying planter in Untitled (plane). Manic in their detail, pseudo-scientific in their rigor, the works nevertheless communicated an emotional pregnancy born of the shivering vulnerability of their brittle-looking patterns. Austere and quietly virtuosic, the drawings demonstrated an ability to take pictorial inspiration from the most quotidian of referents and sustain that inspiration through inventive compositions whose elements by turns interlocked, clustered, and breathed.
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