"Sara Frantz: Between Borderlands"
The artist's gouache-and-graphite, abstracted renderings of landscapes and buildings are how a machine might see the world
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Feb. 6, 2015
"Sara Frantz: Between Borderlands"Women & Their Work, 1710 Lavaca
Through March 19
Sara Frantz is destroying the textures of architectural creation.
She's taking the peopled buildings that redefine what some would call a natural landscape and she's, in turn, redefining them: abstracting the horizontals and verticals, the curves and material-based complexities, everything that manifests an industrial structure, a human habitation. She's shifting them to stark planes of color from a rainbow palette of her own choosing. She's reducing, often, the illusion of three dimensions down to two. And, often, to great effect, she's leaving these graphically simplified edifices embedded among the texture-rich, detail-ridden chaos of the unmade world they were built in.
That's the basic idea, anyway – and a compelling one, at that, especially within the context of humanity's relentless transformation of the non-human world into vessels for its own metastasizing. But these images of Frantz's aren't just clever concepts, nor are they mere machine renderings of such concepts. The artist's hand puts tools to paper and brings the concepts to a viewer's sight via meticulous applications of graphite and gouache, brings a shock of recognition on an almost uncanny-valley level: This is the machine we're making of the world; this is the way a machine might perceive the world.
Look, robot: Here's a former burger restaurant behind some trees. Behold, android: These were once rental sheds along a rural highway. And those brightly hued geodesic domes are ... oh, my: That's that funeral home up there in Waco, isn't it?
I tell you that this series of Frantz's is worth scanning your optics across, for the delight of the balance of colors and shapes, even aside from such philosophical implications noted above.
But there are a few more things on display among these bright variations on a theme. At least two pieces are distinct departures from the rest of the works, as if the artist were like, "Yeah, exactly – and not only that, but check out these visions, get a load of these skills."
Pacific Northwest One Million is rendered in oil on canvas and is a version of one of Frantz's gouache abstractions – but here impressively oversized (72" x 60") and almost obliterated by the branches and leaves of foreground trees, the irrepressible patterns of nature wreaking a dark, thickly pigmented vengeance of suffocation against all those candy-colored conceits. It's deep and foreboding and powerful. And The Falls is simply that: a depiction of Niagara Falls – a diptych that shows the Canadian side and the American side of that hydrodynamic miracle. Limned in gouache and graphite on paper, yes, but with nothing abstracted, with no colors to distract from the superlative monochrome details.
A visit to Women & Their Work right now, I'm suggesting, might be the respite you need, might strip away some of what modern urbanity has encrusted your overly complex life with.