‘Candace Briceño: Nevermore’

With her solo exhibition Nevermore, Austin artist Candace Briceño continues her sustained inquiry into landscapes while driving her use of color and line into new territory


"Candace Briceño: Nevermore"

Women & Their Work, through July 29

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Candace Briceño's work may be familiar from last year's "22 to Watch" at the Austin Museum of Art, but a lot can happen in the studio in a year's time, and this year has obviously been a productive one for the Austin-area artist. With "Nevermore" at Women & Their Work, Briceño continues her sustained inquiry into landscape-painting conventions, the chemical properties of pigment-dyes, and the range of possibilities for artistic practice opened up by the use of wool felt. At the same time, she has challenged herself to drive her use of color and line into new territory, with altogether strong results.

Of the 18 pieces in the exhibition, Pond, Brownie, and Turf most closely resemble the Grass Islands Briceño showed at AMOA. These wall-mounted assemblages of brightly colored felt swatches, wrapped and stitched around wire hoops, appear similar to plants from a Japanese cartoon. Fantastic shapes with irresistible tactile qualities are patently artificial due not only to form but also color, which Briceño interprets through painting rather than straight from nature. A group of turf works referencing the four seasons take this organic conceit further; although they share the same diminutive size as the islands, however, these grassy felt patches are less successful, I think, because they are too small. On the other hand, the sod works showcase Briceño's laborious process of home-dying her materials. The felt threads that make up Spring subtly shift from a brownish-yellow through several shades of green, revealing a broad color spectrum that deftly conceals the effort that assuredly went into crafting the perfect hue for each felt blade.

Color-saturated sculptures are complemented by subdued pencil and pinprick drawings. Taken as a whole, Briceño's drawings underscore the importance of line in her sculptures. These are sometimes machine-stitched, sometimes painted, or else embroidered around a soft form, creating a sharp edge along an otherwise amorphous shape. The punctured holes of Invisible cleverly mimic the regular spacing of a sewing machine needle to trace delicate floral outlines. Two huge graphite drawings, collectively titled Peel, reference the loosely assembled pile of felt bananas installed on a pedestal nearby. Rather than a pile, the drawn banana peels cascade down the wall in a nearly abstract and spatially disorienting mass.

Other connections and contrasts abound. Sponge, which features a stand of stitched dark tree trunks and a bed of felt flowers that quite literally jump off the canvas, is a smart foil for works like Pond: If the grass islands are landscape dioramas, then Sponge is a soft painting. Seen together, they're two sides of the artist's practice that illuminate the diversity of approaches she brings to a single idea – two very different versions of Briceño's brand of landscape. All in all this makes for an intellectually stimulating viewing experience but doesn't add up to a particularly focused show. Briceño presents the seeds for multiple bodies of work in progress, a studio sampler that could have used a little curatorial editing (a group of acrylic-on-paper paintings, although lovely, felt totally out of place). Still, "Nevermore" whets one's appetite for whatever Briceño will do next.

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Candace Briceño:Nevermore, Women & Their Work

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