Sara VanDerBeek at Metro Pictures: Pieced Quilts and Wrapped Forms
Words by Diana McClure / Photography by Anders Jones
Taking Qs from the cosmos and perhaps sacred geometry, Sara VanDerBeek’s latest explorations into the realm of abstract photography have spilled over into sculpture and riffs on American quilts, Pre-Colombian textiles and ceramics, and modernist textiles and weaving.
In her current exhibition at Metro Pictures, Pieced Quilts and Wrapped Forms, VanDerBeek’s go to color palette of variations on lavender, purple, violet, magenta and white, are primary players in a body of work that examines “women’s work” and creative traditional art forms from a feminist perspective.
Archival research on weaving, quilt making and Pre-Colombian art that involved travel to North and South America, resulted in a multi-step process of photo making. Geometric plaster sculptures made by VanDerBeek were first photographed in front of a white backdrop under natural light to take advantage of various shadow formations under an evolving sky.
The images were then digitally manipulated and layered to create orderly yet sublime abstract images. Finally, during VanDerBeek’s one-of-a-kind mix of analog and digital printing, here signature color palette unfolded in a complementary variety of large-scale images.
Walking into the gallery, with several pieces surrounding the viewer, results in a particular sensory oasis of sunrise, sunset, and twilight hues ranging from lavender to violet, pale pink and tangerine. Subtle ombre and kaleidoscope color arrangements require a furtive glance or deep stare to render distinctions in tone; similar to the last few seconds of a night sky as it enters dawn.
In the image, Eternal Triangle, Dusk, a diptych, the digitally manipulated shadows in the piece result in an angled linear cascading pattern. Each image in the pair, at 96 7/8 x 48 7/8 inches (each framed), includes two digital c-prints layered within their respective frames.
A complementary sculpture spills across the floor nearby, also titled Eternal Triangle, made of pigmented concrete with color quartz. Its zigzag feel echoes the diptych and speaks of two takes on one color palette and light/shadow relationship.
A rare inquiry into the shape of a circle, or curve, is gorgeously rendered in the image Japanese Fan, which invokes a night sky quality with its deep two-tone violet color play.
In the rear of the gallery, in a second recently renovated room, skylights activate the space housing a multitude of VanDerBeek’s sculptural creations, mostly in white. Depending on the time of day, and weather patterns, the work takes on a different feel, adding to the unmediated uniqueness of the viewing experience in this exhibition.
With titles like, Prism, Octagon Star, Temple, Moon and Sun, as well as, Baltimore Steps, Quilt Collage I and Neo-Classical, the breadth, depth and contemplation of the meandering mind behind this work is evident. That same flexibility of mind is also required of viewers in order to indulge the deeply satisfying otherworldly sentiment animating VanDerBeek’s work.