Barbara Grad: Video Villa: New Paintings
Curated by Barbara O'Brien

Barbara Grad, Real Time

Real Time, 2010
oil on canvas
26" x 48"
Courtesy of the Artist

September 11, 2010 — November 7, 2010

Opening Reception September 12, 5 - 7 pm
Gallery Talk by Curator Barbara O'Brien, Sunday, October 17, 2 pm
Gallery Talk by the Artist, Sunday, November 7, 3 pm

About the Exhibit

Works in Video Villa: New Paintings by Barbara Grad take their inspiration from the dynamic intersection of two worlds seemingly at odds.  Contrasting maps against aerial topography, the artist explores the boundaries between the built and the natural world. Her stunning command of painterly abstraction, both geometric and organic, moves the viewer from a belief in a recognizable place into an even more convincing reality of a painterly space. 

Medium-to-large scale paintings engage us at a human scale with a surface imagery that offers tension between abstraction and representation.  An animated movement choreographs our gaze, and we experience a sense of wonder and delight in the seeming abandon of a graffiti-influenced passage of fluorescent pink floating atop the grid of a city in Erosion (2008). Here, the element of instruction—how do we find our way?—meets Grad’s distinctive painterly gesture.  The viewer reads through translucent layers of oil on linen; the paintings seem to slide off the canvas. This sense of gravity giving up its power to a painted space is even more emphatically realized in her multi-canvas paintings such as Video Villa (2009–10).

The composition of Boundary Shift (2008) suggests urban sprawl and initiates a dialogue regarding gesture at the service of both control and abandon. A central hub of small, banded rectangles in cool white-infused blues spirals outward toward a loosely painted atmospheric arena of ochre; the indistinct boundaries suggest that this painting has contained only a small part of this painterly universe. A middle landscape of ruddy brown is a meeting place for the grid and the atmosphere. The reality of gravity and landmass gives way to the inspiration of Color Field painting. Here, as in many of Grad’s works, we move away from the familiar and become lost in a painterly space.

Artist’s Statement: Video Villa is a series of paintings and drawings, representing a synthesis all my interests, a balance of representation and abstraction. They are translations of the contradictions created by industrialization and modernity and their affect on the way we live. A collision of perspectives, invented spaces and nonfigurative images creates a disorientation of location. It is a man-made place with landscape roots, respecting the beauty of nature, suggesting a metaphor for the destruction and reconstruction of environment and culture. Continuous shifting phenomenon, transforms notions of pictorial space to impressions of instability and inherently unpredictable experience.

Using visual language of mapping, the work creates a fusion of territorial uncertainty. Rhythms change irregularly, as if the painting has been slightly shoved out of place. The double canvas paintings go further to reinforce the juxtapositions. The construction of the pieces allows the pictorial spaces to both mix and contrast with one another. Placing two unequal canvases together creates an accidental encounter. This allows the intrinsic physicality of the pieces to transcend their borders. The results are aligned with the frailty, fragility, and the mortality of existence through growth and change rather than it's historical mythologies.

New connections are made between what seems unrelated. Abstract associations reflect the tensions and confrontational realities of our contemporary world. It is a way of storytelling creating content from metaphorical representation.

About the Artist

Barbara Grad was born in Chicago and received both her BFA and MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston; 55 Mercer Gallery, NYC; and Jan Cicero Gallery, Chicago.  She has appeared in group exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago; the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Ruth Siegel Gallery, NYC; and numerous other venues.  Reviews of her work have appeared in ARTFORUM, Art News; the Boston Globe, and she was featured in the March 2006 edition of New American Painting.  Her new exhibition Video Villa: New Paintings is her first solo museum show.  After its appearance at the Danforth Museum of Art, it will travel to the Kemper Museum in Kansas City, MO.

Grad’s work appears in both public and private collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, Fidelity Investments and Wellington Management.  She has received grants and awards from the Ballinglen Arts Foundation; the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation; the Massachusetts Cultural Council; the Massachusetts Foundation for the Arts; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

She has enjoyed artist residencies in Hawaii and Australia, and was professor at the Pont Aven School of Contemporary Art, Pont Aven, France.  Since 1981 she has been on the painting faculty at the Massachusetts College of Art.  Barbara Grad currently lives and works in at her home and studio in Wayland, MA.

For more information about the artist, please visit her website at www.barbaragrad.com.

About the Curator

A native of northeast Kansas, Barbara O’Brien holds a MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design as well as undergraduate degrees in Women’s Studies and Journalism from the University of Kansas. In September 2010, she began a new appointment as curator for the Kemper Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO.  Since 1990 she has curated nearly 50 exhibitions of contemporary art. 

Previous to her appointment, she served as Assistant Professor of Art and Director of the Trustman Art Gallery at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.  Before working in various capacities at Simmons College (2006–08), O’Brien served as a public art consultant for the City of Boston (2004–05). At Art New England Magazine, she was the Editor in Chief (2003–2006), as well as its Regional Reviews Coordinator (2002–2006). From 1990–2001, O’Brien was the Director of the Gallery and Visiting Artist Program at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, Massachusetts. Over the years, she has held various positions at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Ute Stebich Gallery, Lenox, Massachusetts; Cragin Fife Gallery, Brookline, Massachusetts; Intermedia Arts Minnesota, Minneapolis; 1469 Pacific Gallery, San Francisco, California; Community Art Resource, San Francisco; and the Association of Community Arts Councils, Topeka, Kansas.

O’Brien is well published and has served as an invited speaker on many issues in contemporary art. She is a member of ArtTable, International Association of Art Critics, College Art Association, and American Association of Museums. In 2006, she received the National Alumni Award for Professional Achievement from Rhode Island School of Design.

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