Thalweg is the third presentation of Chicago-based Lisa Alvarado with Bridget Donahue gallery on the Lower East Side. Here Alvarado touches on various themes, from geometric to political while continuing her exploration of abstraction through elaborately executed patterns. Presented works include nine acrylic-on-canvas pieces suspended in the air, two delicate sand structures, and several prints on aluminum. The exhibition is accompanied by hypnotic musical composition Thalweg Sounds by Natural Information Society, a musical band formed by Alvarado and her husband, and where she plays the harmonium. Taken as a whole, this show brings together an immersive and enticing experience, a walking meditation of contemplating through vision and sounds.
Screen or byobu in Japanese is an element of the space organization; it’s also a movable painting, creating a virtual reality for its onlookers by symbolically multiplying the preexisting physical space. In its traditional use, painted Asian screens were created to hide something from a plain view or to create a partition. As a theatrical curtain, a screen can show something mysterious, outside of our own system of references. In the presented work Alvarado incorporates all these subtleties that a screen connotes while adding a few of her own.
The color scheme of the presented works runs a whole gamut from a gentle pastel combination of green, pink, and azure to a more forceful combination of cobalt blue, crimson, gold, olive green. A few pieces are created with precisely coordinated jagged structures, while others have a more immediate, fluid finish. In one striking work, a rigid pattern of triangles suddenly encounters a smooth, organic line of a symbolic wave, thus following the premise of the exhibition exploring a meeting place of various layers and identities.
According to the old Japanese beliefs, evil spirits could only move in straight lines, thus screens ritualistically were able to hinder the entrance of the negative energy. In almost conscious accordance with this belief, on the reverse side of the paintings, Alvarado silkscreened a watery outline of the fingers of two hands reaching towards one another on the yellow or white backgrounds. Acting as talismans these fingers reference for the artist a convergence, a connection between seen and unseen, contemplated and real, fixed and fluid.
In her statement for the exhibition, Alvarado mentions the 1929-1936 Mexican Repatriation that violently changed the lives of over 2 million people of Mexican descent. This exhibition does not immediately strike me as having a precise goal of critically re-examining this human tragedy, although aluminum sheets provide us with significant visual aids. Rather as Ariadne, Alvarado inventively guides us with her pictorial and musical threads so we could possibly contemplate various states of mind, connecting with those of the Repatriation victims, but also with meditatively inclined spiritual querents. In both instances, an exercise we all need this summer.
July 17–August 30, 2020