The Austin Chronicle

"Stella Alesi: Journeying" at Prizer Arts & Letters

The artist extends her protean skills toward the bold and minimal

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, March 22, 2019, Arts

The Austin-based artist Stella Alesi has gone journeying, and she wants you to come with. At least, "Journeying" is the name of the exhibition of her newest works – currently anchoring the walls at Prizer Arts & Letters' intimate venue on E. Cesar Chavez – and it's a good destination to reach.

Of course, Alesi has been journeying via complicated markmaking for decades now, and her journey has moved through several distinct phases, each one providing its unique rewards for the artist and for her viewers. Maybe you remember her botanical renditions, large-scale and realistic evocations of the natural world, from when she was involved with Davis Gallery. Perhaps you recall her dotty diversion into pinpoint patterning, thousands and thousands of tiny points of paint so painstakingly applied, like regimented starscapes flooding brilliance within a series of bright and complex mandalas. Or are her more recent exercises in geometric design, the works of "Digging for Emptiness," deep to almost dourness with a limited palette of blues and grays and blacks and whites, foremost in your appreciation of this stellar Stella?

The current display at the Prizer shows Alesi working her most basic and elemental industry: her abstractions simple in form if often sublime in shade and balance, something mighty Saul Bass about the feel of these flat shapes of black and blue and orange arranged and stacked against their white ground, something 1960s, like the cover for a vintage Penguin paperback of Yukio Mishima extolling the virtues of zen gardening. They boast a bold appearance – a boulder appearance – offering visitors a visual meditation on rock-solid foundations.

"I find that when living with these paintings that they quietly support; bring joy," writes the artist. "They whisper answers to questions. They listen as well as speak. These paintings seep in, and serve as a quiet companion."

A quiet companion, these paintings. A silent accompaniment to balance (the way the paintings' forms balance within each discrete rectangle) the hectic hubbub of our modern and overconnected lives. But you don't have to live with them, necessarily, to reap the benefits of such balance – although, how much calmer the home that harbors such works, n'est-ce pas? You could simply make an appointment and pay a visit to Prizer Arts & Let­ters, allow yourself an afternoon of contemplative journeying with this "Journeying" of Stella Ale­si's at its center, and, you know, maybe cap your wandering with a commensurately mindful cocktail at Craftsman, just a few blocks along that same street.

“Stella Alesi: Journeying”

Prizer Arts & Letters, 2023 E. Cesar Chavez,
Through April 13

Copyright © 2024 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.