Art comes from the soul and beyond. Being a creator is the most profound human experience whereby I know myself better and I can connect with people through it. Connection is the evidence that strongly suggests that this is a core psychological need, essential to feeling satisfied with your life. Art and music simply connect people, community and the world. I would be lost without art and music. I know who I am through my art. Creating art is like walking into another realm of being. There were times when I was young, I needed to escape into that realm and that saved me in many ways. Now I am fulfilled and strong whenever I enter that creative realm.
ROSE MASTERPOL: THE GEOMETRIX
By Peter Frank
We regard the artistic idioms of the recent past with a peculiar combination of curiosity, longing, admiration, and condescension. We believe we have moved past them, and can dote on them like aged grandparents while raiding their closets. But such an exploitative approach to, say, surrealism, Art Deco, or hippie psychedelia does nothing but package these historical phenomena as nostalgic gloss. It does not show them the respect historical phenomena merit — nor does it investigate the vitality that can still pulse through them.
Rose Masterpol rejects this casual adoption or satirization of bygone styles; her interest in what has come to be known as “mid-century” art and design is not simply genuine, it is thorough and it is passionate. She does not want to steal pointers from Abstract Expressionism or Danish Modern, she wants to understand them to the point where she inhabits them. Masterpol is like a linguist reviving recently extinct patois — or, more accurately, like a poet trying to write in a language she knows as much through research as through memory.
Masterpol demonstrated her devotion to, and understanding of, postwar abstract painting with several series of gestural canvases begun while she was based in Los Angeles and continued after her relocation to Santa Fe. Indeed, she produced these expansive, choreographed tableaux until very recently, deciding only within the past year to put that approach aside and concentrate on her Geometrix. The need to focus on the new series is evident in the clear stylistic shift the Geometrix represent: rather than the painterly, “expressive” manner that has characterized Masterpol’s entire oeuvre to this point, the new series relies (as its name implies) on clearly defined color areas with sharply rendered edges, composed gracefully, and comparatively languidly, so as to achieve maximum poise.
If we look closer, however, and keep in mind various aspects of Masterpol’s previous paintings, we realize that the Geometrix do not demarcate as much of a turn from those more painterly works as first seems. Masterpol has certainly adopted a new way of painting, but it is a new way of exploring a given formal vocabulary, not a new vocabulary altogether. Throughout her mature work Masterpol has relied on line, and on a particular kind of line, one that floats and scurries, meanders and cascades across the expanse of the canvas until not just the armature but the entire structure of the picture has been defined. With their open, organic contours and eccentric but rhythmic diversions, the shapes predominating in the Geometrix are redolent of mid-century fabric and furniture design, and of sculpture such as that of Noguchi and Calder. We go back to her earlier series, however, and find many of the same shapes vibrating amidst the brushy clamor; hindsight allows us to regard these earlier formal iterations as struggling to come to the surface. In the Geometrix, they finally do.
Masterpol has also retained her carefully calibrated layering effects in the Geometrix. Now, instead of describing plane upon plane in a piling-on of brushstrokes and pigmental densities, she wafts one “skin” of flattened translucent color upon another, overlapping discrete areas like Venn diagrams and locking in these drifts and skeins with carefully situated opaque linear forms. Again, this formula echoes those at work in the previous series; but now, it results in a classic, elegant moment rather than an agitated event. The Geometrix still convey a sense of time, but in them time is no longer marked by Masterpol’s hand, but by a more transcendent natural time into which she seems to have relaxed.
The Geometrix mark a pivotal point in Rose Masterpol’s history. They clarify her thinking and her vision, in effect revealing the undercarriage of her aesthetic and reassembling the chassis. But, however reformulated and reinterpreted, the bones and the lines are the same. The same sensibility that undergirded its nervous marking with lucid flow now undergirds its lucid flow with an extra-corporeal sense of time. The references to postwar modernism are as knowing as ever — and in fact serve to alert us to the formal connections between Abstract Expressionism (notably Gorky, De Kooning, et. al.) and contemporaneous architecture and design (from Saarinen to Eames to late Frank Lloyd Wright). Masterpol has evolved, but she has not strayed, and her informed response to recent art history supports rather than drives her artmaking. Her passion, not her knowledge, is the driver.
Los Angeles / April 2019
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TIME + SPACE