Blue McRight: Gather / Astrid Preston: For the Trees

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October 13, 2023, 10:00 am to 5:30 PM
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Craig Krull Gallery
2525 Michigan Avenue, BLD. B-3
Santa Monica, 90404
Blue McRight: Gather / Astrid Preston: For the Trees

September 2 – October 14, 2023

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 9, 4-6 p.m.
Artist Talk: Saturday, September 30 AT 11 a.m.

Blue McRight’s daily practice of picking up and collecting plastic pollution is the foundational action from which she has created the works in her new exhibition, Gather. As a long-time scuba diver, she has witnessed the organic processes of the underwater world, life and death, gender fluidity, reproduction and communication. Her sculpture is made of salvaged plastic straws, rope and hairbands, but also former instruments of death such as fishing nets, fish and crab traps and bait baskets. She assembles these materials into flowing, intertwined conglomerates that, when suspended from the ceiling, give the impression of floating within a tall kelp forest. Other forms resemble colorful, spikey, sea anemones attached to the wall. She states, “while diving, I am always fascinated by wildly encrusted mooring blocks, ropes, and a huge array of other surfaces whose takeover by intricate colonies of sea life is underway.” Shakespeare describes the process as “a sea change into something rich and strange.” The netting she employs, in some cases actual fishing net, and in others plastic mesh wrapping from Christmas trees or small cheese wheels, recalls the clear bodies of many marine species whose interiors are visible. Her re-imagining and repurposing of these materials “asks us to confront the possibilities of what we thoughtlessly discard, giving agency to the rejected as it assumes space in the realm of the cultural dialogue.”

Having worked with Astrid Preston in the 1980s at Jan Turner Gallery, and then at Craig Krull Gallery since 1999, we have been on a meandering path together through her metaphysical and ever-evolving landscapes, or more appropriately, her deconstructed interpretations of natural phenomenon. Over the years, I have consistently pointed out that landscapes do not exist in nature, they are purely a mental construct. And, in support of that perspective, Astrid recently wrote, “Quite early I found that working directly from nature was too distracting.” Her “landscapes” have always embodied mystery because she is suggesting that something is either about to happen, something is missing, there are unexpected occlusions, perception is veiled, or ultimately, “ceci n’est pas un paysage.” In this regard, her new exhibition For the Trees, (i.e. “can’t see the forest for the trees”) is appropriately titled. These paintings continue her ironically crystal-clear obfuscation with untethered floating geo-orb snowflakes, or rectangular snowflakes seen from a moving car that look like questionnaire boxes that need to be filled in. Fractal webbing is scrimmed over the entire surface of some paintings, implying the natural geometry that unites us all. She renders fog as one might expect, in a blur of ambient tones, but it’s not really fog, just look at the next painting and it becomes a three-part grey scale à la Brice Marden. Occasional glowing blips of protoplanets pulse here and there, reminding us that she also supports astronomy research at UCLA, another vast unknown.

Blue McRight: Gather / Astrid Preston: For the Trees