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September 5 - October 6, 2001 at DoubleVision Gallery, West Hollywood

by Elenore Welles

Ron Griffin, “600-00,” mixed
media, 48 x 36”, 2000.

Ron Griffin
, “626-01,” mixed
media, 76 x 36”, 2001.

Ron Griffin, “630-01,” mixed
media, 24 x 36”, 2001.

Ron Griffin, “597-00,” mixed
media, 36 x 36”, 2000.

Art as a cultural language can be intellectual or spiritual. Ron Griffin and Dawn Arrowsmith both translate interior essences: Griffin of concrete forms, and Arrowsmith of imponderable realities. Their processes evoke both clarity and ambiguity, conveyed respectively by solid form and vaporous space.

Griffin reverts Pop art’s “ugliness is beautiful” parodies into “beauty is in the mundane” paradoxes. In transcendent and romantic reconstructions of commercial products, he combines the banality of Pop art with the painstaking finish of academic painting.

For his 1998 Marlboro Series he relied on the landscape for inspiration, particularly the Mojave desert of his native California. But it was the encroachment of urban detritus that most fascinated him. Swirling among the windswept sands were debris that included envelopes, letters, gum wrappers and cigarette packages. For Griffin, these discarded items had intrinsic design qualities.

He developed an exacting technique for painting abstract shapes derived from mass produced products. Starting by drafting designs from splayed and flattened items, the forms are then mapped out on paper. These he overlays with translucent sheets in order to achieve dimension. The resultant designs are translated into paintings by using layers of gesso, paint, clear varnish and polyurethane.

The assertion of aesthetic qualities on any given object depends a good deal on the attitude of the artist and the ability to evoke a similar appreciation in the viewer. In these geometric abstractions Griffin evokes the unique and inexpressible qualities of banal objects. Deriving inspiration from things like toilet seat covers Griffin, in his own inimitable way, has managed to eke out a large measure of refinement from them.

He mediates between literalism and illusionism in variously sized paintings, some of which run as large as 76” x 36”. Geometric shapes, layered in shades of gray, appear translucent against jet black backgrounds. Some forms appear to have drifted into the picture plane. Others hover like floating oragamis twisting in the wind. The layering determines various spatial perceptions. Overlapping shapes either twist back on themselves or move inward to establish an illusion of depth. By transporting the viewer into interior spaces, Griffin slyly connects to Modernist aesthetics, particularly Cubism’s simultaneous views.

In smaller 8” x 10” paintings, rendered in soft green against black backgrounds, the commercial product is pared down to basic static designs. They evoke a compositional tension that relates more readily to minimalist or hard-edged inclinations. In the larger paintings, the original object is somewhat recognizable and rendered poetic. In the smaller formats, object-hood is suspended. In both versions, however, Griffin has taken the energy of transient objects and infused them with a distinctive afterlife.

In contrast to Griffin’s exaltations of the material world, Dawn Arrowsmith’s work springs more from her own inner world. Her exalted aim is to translate internal spiritual concepts into form. Arrowsmith joins countless artists who have been intrigued by Asian belief systems. Stanton Macdonald-Wright, for one, noted that Western logic and rationalism were limited in their powers to experience and interpret the world. Artists such as Kandinsky, Mondrian and Jackson Pollock, in an effort to meld Eastern and Western ideas, developed theories and methods to communicate illusive qualities. Indeed, this was at the genesis of modern abstract art.

Arrowsmith’s investigations of nature, longevity and meditation took her into the area of Indian Ayurvedic practices, particularly in relationship to cooking. Her 1997-1999 Vata paintings were based on the exploration of an array of foods, spices and curries. She characterized her paintings as visual translations of scent. Her distinctive technique, although a vast contrast to Griffin’s, is no less exacting. Her visions evolve through the process of following the flecks in the natural canvas with paint on the end of a Japanese toothpick.

Still evocative of food qualities, her current works are again influenced by meditation practices, Buddhist philosophy and by her travels to the Orient. In Sacred Fragrances an orange circle dissolves into a dotted field of yellow and red color washes. The circle emerges as a fiery red whole in Buddha’s Feast. Set like a giant sun against an orange sky, horizontal rows of pale green dots shimmer along the surface. In Buddha Within the circle becomes a blurry haze behind a series of vertical dots.

Arrowsmith’s luminous paintings are the result of a system that is largely intuitive. It is geared toward conveying the nebulous concept of transcendence. The question remains whether we are capable of summoning objective realities from impenetrable mysteries. At the very least, art can evoke a state of mind. Her cosmic implications provide an avenue for contemplation.

Dawn Arrowsmith, “Buddha’s
Feast,” a/c, 10 x 10”, 1999.

Dawn Arrowsmith, "Sacred
Fragrance," a/c, 48 x 42", 2000.

Dawn Arrowsmith, "Temple,"
a/c, 48 x 42", 2001.