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Erin Curtis: Perspective Threshold at Women & Their Work

Caldor by Erin Curtis, 2009

Caldor by Erin Curtis, 2009

Erin Curtis: Perspective Threshold
Women & Their Work
October 8 – November 14, 2009

Post by Lauren Adams

Erin Curtis likes space. She likes the mystery behind it, the sense of awe it inspires, and the infinite possibilities for exploration that lies within. This is not space as in “The Final Frontier” however, but pictorial space; space that exists only as an illusion. It is a skill that has preoccupied artists for years, how to create a believable, dimensional space on a flat surface which draws the viewer into the artist’s creation. In many cases the implementation of architecture is used to create depth through its intricate construction. This can be seen in so many of the early Renaissance paintings where colorful windows, doorways, and arches create a believable depth in which the figures reside. Curtis plays with this idea of space-through-architecture and seeks to confuse the traditional idea of the viewers perspective.

Curtis takes samples from modern architecture for her study of perspective. What would be such familiar shapes as high rises, blocky modern homes, and layers of concrete and glass become muddled in works such as Perspectivism. Here the buildings and skylines are layered one on top of the other, with no space in between, creating a flat, geometric and confusing jumble. Curtis also adds the element of color and pattern. Challenging the simplicity valued in modern architecture, Curtis paints her cityscape with bright yellows, pinks, blues, greens, some with intricate floral and geometric patterns. Also present are the pencil outlines of many of the buildings, echoing the blueprints which created them.  Giving the sense that the work is finished, yet unfinished at the same time. The result is a chaotic field of color, pattern, and shapes that leave the viewer searching for what they assume should be there, while exposing them to a new form of spatial possibility.

Distortion of space can also be found in less densely packed pieces such as Backwaters. Here the familiar form of a traditional house hovers in the back corner. Inspired by Victorian wall papers, brightly colored floral patterns, spill out seemingly from no where. Turning this traditional subject into a colorful surreal space. The composition adds movement to a peaceful landscape. While the main components in the piece are traditional, the colors, ratios, and intermingling patterns create yet another bright, disorderly scene.

Perhaps the most interesting piece in the exhibition is the installation composed of House, Kaufmann House Pool Set, Moving, and The Memorabilia Collection. Where as Perspectivism attempts to flatten the space as much as possible, this installation creates a 3D space that the viewer can actually move through and interact with. House, literally a miniature house made from found and painted doors, sits behind Pool Set, which creates the illusion of a deck with pool and chairs. Moving, a painted piece on canvas, lines the back wall of the house, adding depth using the traditional tricks. Doorways, stairways, and rooms create the sense that the house moves further back than the viewer can physically go. The result is an inverse painting.  Instead of the viewer being drawn back into the painting, the painting is pulled forward into the physical space of the viewer. This also creates two ways the viewer can interact with the piece; by standing back and viewing this painting which has entered their space or by entering the house and becoming part of the painting itself. As the viewer becomes part of the painting, they are also afforded yet another view, this time looking out from the scene they were previously looking in on.

In many different ways Erin Curtis has confused our traditional idea of perspective, space, and modern architecture. The colors and patterns challenge the architectural aesthetic we have come to accept, mixing different eras and cultures together to form a new point of view. Her installations question our assumed place as the viewer, and in many ways, both her flat and 3D pieces create the desire not simply to view art, but to become a part of it. It is that aspect which fascinates me the most. Traditionally art has been seen as something to view from the outside and critique. Curtis forces us to consider that there is more to art than simply what is on the wall. It is space for exploration.

Erin Curtis: Perspective Threshold is on view at Women & Their Work, a visual and performing art organization in Central Austin. The exhibit runs through November 14, 2009.

Caldor by Erin Curtis, 2009

Caldor by Erin Curtis, 2009

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One response to “Erin Curtis: Perspective Threshold at Women & Their Work”

  1. @ktsmither says:

    Wow Lauren! Nice. ; )
    Saw the show today…W&tW seems to always provide something worth talking about, that’s for sure. Yep, the best part for me was the mini-Kaufmann House pieces. That whole thing made me laugh, I couldn’t help thinking of children’s playhouses while that house is crucial to talking about modern architecture. It was just funny.
    There’s a panel discussion on Architecture and Desire at the gallery Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 7 pm. I’m looking forward to that.