Cynthia Martin, “The Passing Landscape”
When: through July 11
Where: Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara, 229 E. Victoria St.
Gallery hours: 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, and by appointment
Information: 965-6307, www.afsb.org
Make no mistake, Cynthia Martins’ art has surface immediate surface appeal going for it. Candy-colored and otherwise spectrum-spanning horizontal bands are tautly stacked, and liven up the optic nerves, while atmospheric lyricism hits us from another direction often in the form of dreamy cloudscapes. Often these opposite tacks attract and contrast, in the same piece.
But what distinguishes her art and gives it greater depth are the undercurrents at work here. That’s what keeps us looking, and thinking about the art, especially when seen in generous contrasting portions. To that end, art lovers are well-advised to get over to her solo show “The Passing Landscape,” now at the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara gallery.
Ms. Martin’s art has been sighted around town, as standouts in group shows at the Channing Peake Gallery and the Tennis Club “Abstract 8” show last year, but to bathe in a gallery full of the art gives a broader and more telling perspective on what she’s about. And much of that “aboutness” revolves around the many facets of life and culture of Southern California.
Coming up in the hazy hustle of the San Fernando Valley and landing in Santa Barbara, she has absorbed elements of the particular urbanity of SoCal and the imposing presence of its nature, especially of sea, sky and the life of clouds. Through her art, we can get a sense of traffic gridwork–as in the long color-banded “South Coast (Interrupted),” broken up by obstacles of asphalt-like black. We also get poetic hints of surfing and surfboard design, as well echoes of the ‘60s era “finish fetish” art movement in Los Angeles as well as more contemporary minimalist notions.
Her minimalist badge, however, doesn’t prevent her from indulging in the garishness of glitter and color fluorescence, often as a point of contrast within a given artwork. “Malibu Glitter Clouds” combines a predominant painting of a post-storm sky over the Pacific, offset by a strip of gaudy shimmering squares—like jumbo paint swatches from the kitschy end of the paint spectrum, or the glitzy side of the Malibu ethos—running along the side.
Her vertically-pitched “All that Glitters” is, in effect, a triptych, moving from an ambient skyscape through a splashy, glittery panel and finally, a muted gray-ish stacked section serving as a voice of reason.
One interesting object and historical lesson in the exhibition can be found on one section of wall in the gallery (the “living room space” of the vintage house which serves as the Architectural Foundation headquarters). Here, six small, square cloud paintings made in the ‘90s are strategically placed atop six gray-to-white scale striped pieces in her “Cloud Shadow” series, made just this year.
Those once disparate pieces and periods of the artist’s development later came together in an integrated way, a signature effect of her mature art, in works such as “Particle Matters,” a skyscape with a row of color block along the side. Ironically, or not, this painting’s fuzzy horizontal striped cloud forms make a sly allusion to the tight-network of bright-colored and hard-edged horizontals in her abstraction mode.
Real life matters and tensions also enter the picture of her art, if in non-explicit ways, as in the oil-related “Extraction” and “Oil Spill,” one knowingly placed on top of the other.
Tucked subtly in a corner of the gallery is the compact, vertical and layered “Deconstructed Sunset.” All the colors of its title’s subject are accounted for, but reductively separated and re-assembled with her abstracting, refracting eye and stylistic hand. It’s the most beautiful sunset painting I’ve seen in some time.
But maybe that’s just me and my ilk, those looking to art for fresh and possibly deconstructionist perspectives on scenes of inherent beauty that we here in Southern California might take for granted.