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Cathy Breslaw's Industrial Vision at WPCA

Aug. 6, 2012
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Silver tendrils spiral playfully on the gallery floor and a gossamer, postindustrial canopy floats overhead. Opposite the door, a pale blue and silvery piece by artist Cathy Breslaw appears to undulate softly on the wall. It is quite a fetching first impression for this small selection of works.

The exhibition “Above, Below & Beyond,” on view through Aug. 25 at Walker's Point Center for the Arts, takes its name from the aforementioned canopy, a mixed-media composition of mesh and plastic, color and pigment, plus other assorted materials. The physicality of “stuff” and unusual ingredients inform the work of Breslaw, as well as artist Charles Matson Lume in the adjacent gallery.

An affection for fabric and texture captured Breslaw at an early age, particularly through her family's textile business. Her recent works reveal an absorption with material that typically is found in the interstices of daily life, or those throwaway things that hang out at the periphery of our attention. One of her favored mediums is an industrial mesh, produced in massive quantities and ultimately used for utilitarian things, like bags for carrying oranges. It is not stuff generally viewed for its sculptural properties, I dare say. However, with Breslaw's handling, this material yields new possibilities as a foundation, as well as applications for detail and decoration.

The work in the gallery is very sparsely hung; just a handful of pieces represent her practice. More would certainly be nice, yet there is a logic in the spacious arrangement. It's not a big space, so while there is less to see, it subtly compels the viewer to dwell a bit longer with each work.

Pieces such as the digital print Particles Revisited #2, with its diffusions of green and purple clouds on satiny sheer fabric, float on the wall like a great-grandchild of an Abstract Expressionist painting. The interchanges of color and form are there, but the gentle demeanor and gauzy weight is a nonchalant denial of the forerunners' muscular angst. These are far more cool and reserved, and the effect is unquestionably pretty.

Outer Limits
conveys something of a similar effect, though it adds greater force through definite gestures in the details. Combining drawing and assemblage, the piece encompasses rupture and growth and a sense of fluidity. The rippling, reflective sensibility is there as well, but a bit more intriguing for the surprise of being done on rigid plastic.

Breslaw is nuanced and judicious in her selections, scooping industrial-grade material out of the commercial ecosystem, then training and transforming it into delicate, fanciful objects. In the process, she creates something like a new vision of nature, one that originates in the fields of artificial plastics but achieves its own sense of organic freedom.


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