Edith Beaucage, “Up Life:  A Series Under Glass”
September 17 – October 8, 2005
Opening reception: Saturday, September 24, 6:30-8:30pm
Edith will present her Color, Form and Light performance at 7:30pm, accompanied by Dr. Phoenix Camden performing on High Frequency Crystal Bowls

3850 Wilshire Blvd #107, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Directors, Susan Baik and May Chung  
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Hours, Tuesday - Saturday, 11am - 5pm

Edith Beaucage, “Thought”, 2005, lamintated film in glass disks, 5” x 5”.

By Peter Frank

Edith Beaucage has spent the last several years refining her art into an eccentric but lucidly reasoned and carefully controlled manifestation of pure form. Beaucage’s formal vocabulary consists of geometric shapes, often rounded, set against one another in dynamic yet eccentric, even subtly comical, contraposition. But now, in a major shift, Beaucage has introduced an element that could be considered anathematic to her non-objective world: the human figure. In one sense, this is a reintroduction; Beaucage began as a figure painter. But she has not “returned to the figure” as such. On the contrary, the figure itself now, well, figures as yet another element – the focal element, to be sure, but a single, even lone element nonetheless – in compositions that otherwise remain entirely abstract. Indeed, Beaucage’s expanded vocabulary of shapes in these new works heightens their elegance and mystery – and the presence of human ciphers only makes matters odder.

If we go back to the origins of abstract art, we see that, by and large, abstraction’s progenitors were not seeking simply to make art out of nothing but (more or less) elementary shapes. The invested great meaning in their compositions; whether that meaning was a matter of proprioperception (as in synesthetic response to, for instance, musical stimulation); quasi-religious transcendence; basic symbolic – heraldic and/or metaphysical – alignments (that would effectively establish a syntax among formal vocabularies); or any combination thereof. It has been only in the last few decades that abstract artists have been content to replace what the abstract expressionists called the “subjects of the artist” with the thoroughgoing self-referentiality of (as Frank Stella put it), “what you see is what you see” – inferring that what you see means nothing more than itself.

By situating the figure, that most empathy-inducing of images, at the heart of her abstract formulations – and especially by doing so at various layers of sandwiched glass – Beaucage returns our understanding of abstraction to an interpretive, subjective, and empathically responsive discourse. The shapes we see at play now don’t just play with one another; they play with – around, on, out of – the homo sapiens in their midst. Yes, it is about you; the universe may not be anthrocentric, but art is. The proper measure of mankind, after all, is still man, and art is, if anything, as full a measure of man, and woman, as humankind could devise. 

Beaucage’s is not a romantic art by any means. Her figures do not grow in experience, they are not doing anything momentous, nor are they otherwise engaged in any teleological process. Rather, they exist in an enduring present, a condition of engagement that Beaucage has made permanent and, thus by inference, eternal. Beaucage has quite consciously invested her signs and designs with certain spiritual significance, at least some of which she overtly intends for her new artworks to convey. (She writes, for instance, of describing man’s “inner energy” in one piece, his “creative thought” in another, and has realized at least two “self-portraits” in which she places herself amidst a supportive and reinvigorating choreography of forms.) But we don’t require the artist’s explanation, iconographic guide, or other exterior revelation to grasp at least the generalized presence here of extra-retinal significance. No matter where they position themselves or their respective glass supports, the elements, human or geometric, co-exist in coherent yet volatile counterpoint.

It should be emphasized that Beaucage has not inserted the figure into her abstractions in order to “humanize” them, but simply to ground them. The works under glass could be considered “applications” of the theoretical circumstances proposed by her figure-less paintings. They perform a didactic role, to be sure, cluing those still resistant to abstract art – and those who regard abstraction as mere eye candy – to its substance. The figures demonstate the concretion of what can otherwise be construed, rightly or wrongly, as ineffable. To Beaucage, as to her abstract forebears and many of her peers, it is precisely those ineffable qualities that she seeks to invoke. Does she invoke them any more effectively by introducing figural ciphers? Some would concur, even insisting that this remain her approach from here on. Others would demur, even hoping that she abandon this series and return the visual and conceptual “purity” of her paintings. Beaucage is not likely to defer to either preference; her work is first and foremost about those abstract shapes, their meanings, and their potential for meaning. She has accepted the fact that such meaning, and such potential, can come across in more ways than one. In Edith Beaucage’s universe, the ineffable can be the measure of man.

Los Angeles
August 2005

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