Laurie Reid: Stephen Wirtz Gallery

By Helfand, Glen | Artforum International, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Laurie Reid: Stephen Wirtz Gallery


Helfand, Glen, Artforum International


Laurie Reid titled her recent exhibition of eleven watercolors "Speechless," but while the totality may have been visually subdued, the show's cumulative effect was far from mute: The works on paper, each an iteration of a nearly identical motif, expressed a variety of ideas and posed a number of questions that changed according to one's physical proximity to them. From a distance, the paintings appear to be two-dimensional, almost photographic evocations of the contours of mountains enshrouded in mist, or of lines made by water in sand. But on closer observation, they reveal themselves to be loose matrices of thick, undulating parallel horizontal lines connected by thinner, shorter vertical marks. They variously resemble cellular structures, veins in a leaf, and the staggered grid of a brick wall. Each painting thus appears markedly dimensional, its pronounced horizontal ridges appearing to project toward the viewer. They suggest slopes and valleys, or perhaps ribs beneath skin.

This sculptural aspect shifts the tone of the work in a more abstract direction, where figurative associations recede and the interplay of material, form, and gesture assumes primacy. Reid's chosen materials--a particularly absorbent cotton rag paper, and water subtly tinted with minerals--effect a striking transformation when combined. The artist's application of the liquid creates an emphatic, almost violent, convex buckling. Framed, the works take on a slightly elegiac quality as the warping of the paper is fixed and preserved. A continued tension, however, is visible along the lower edge of many of the works, as the paper seemingly struggles to curl further, revealing a strain on the tabs used to mount it to the backing. …

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