Abstract paintings at the Oxford Arts Alliance
● By J. Chambless
‘Black and Blue 1’
Susan Melrath’s solo exhibit at the Oxford Arts Alliance this month, “Abstract Thinking,” is wide open to whatever you bring to it. Her abstract, mixed-media panels are elaborately layered, containing just enough recognizable shapes and points of reference to allow viewers to get their bearings.
Visually unpacking these paintings, such as the monumental “The Gift,” could take a while, as time spent with them reveals their elements gradually. Of course, you could regard them as bold graphic statements and leave it at that, but to Melrath’s credit, there is a voluminous amount of thought behind each piece.
You won’t know the process behind “Seeing Red,” for instance, but the angry hue and the slashed gouges in the surface point to inner turmoil coming out in the studio. Works such as “It’s Complicated” are really just that – squiggles and patterns, a block of indistinct text, a grid pattern trying to establish order on everything. It’s an expanse of thoughts, emotions and meanings.
Melrath’s paintings are exquisitely rendered, with a depth of pigments that draws you nearer to inspect how they’re put together. She’s careful, however, to let the sometimes ragged edges of inspiration show. You’ll feel like you’re discovering the meanings right along with her.
Credit also goes to Melrath and the Arts Alliance for mounting an exhibition that’s going to challenge viewers. For her part, the artist welcomes all reactions, and her paintings – which would be the centerpiece of any upper-tier Manhattan art gallery – are a surprising, and very welcome, artistic challenge to the Oxford area.
“Abstract Thinking,” a solo show by Susan Melrath, continues at the Oxford Arts Alliance through May 31, with a closing reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit www.oxfordart.org.To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.