Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Final Critique

Chris Barbey
Critique of Greg Parks’ Untitled

Untitled is a collage mounted on an 18” x 24” board. It is constructed of fallen leaves and of grass stems. These appear to have been fixed to each other and the board with matt medium. The strongest compositional element in this piece is the pattern of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines that originates from the lower right hand corner of the piece. This arrangement of grass stems decreases in density and complexity as it extends from the lower right hand corner towards the upper left until it tapers down to only one stem and then stops near the top of the board and approximately half way along the horizontal axis of the composition.
Behind this pattern of stems is a mottled, brown field of varying color and intensity made of fallen leaves that have come from a variety of different trees and are of multiple sizes. The covering of leaves appears to be quite thick and rather soft, as if there are many layers. The lower left part of the field is slightly darker than the rest, possibly suggesting a receding or approaching darkness. On the left and upper edges of the composition, the tips of the leaves extend over the edge of the board. This together with the pattern made by the diagonally arranged grass stems suggests slow movement towards the upper left.
The geometric pattern of grass appears to suggest roads and the composition as a whole is reminiscent of a view of the Midwest after harvest from an airplane. Yet, at the same time, the still very obvious leaves bring the image back down to scale and the composition also appears to be a section of ground in a deciduous forest.
Given that the artist was interested in exploring the idea of encroachment, I assume that the piece was intended to be viewed as if it were a picture taken from an airplane or as a map. If we take this perspective, and acknowledge the artist’s choice of natural materials, then we may interpret that the artist was attempting to explore some ideas about environmentalism in relation to encroachment. The “roads” appear to be expanding and they are expanding over a field of dead natural material. This suggests the idea of invasive vines, which constantly grow and colonize new areas, suffocating and destroying the native flora and fauna as they go. Very straightforwardly, the pattern roads makes a point about urban and suburban sprawl where structures built by man extend over a natural environment. Does the artist mean to liken us with organisms like invasive vines? How about parasites?

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