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Iva Gueorguieva at Crosstown Arts, The Commercial Appeal Memphis

By Fredric Koeppel

I rarely visit an exhibition from which I wish I could take every piece home, but that’s the case with “Between the Eyes,” a show featuring work by six artists of the abstract at Crosstown Arts. That fantasy leaves aside considerations of cost — prohibitive — and of wall space, which is precious at our house. Curated by Laurel Sucsy, who includes two of her paintings, the show, spare in size and arrangement yet generous in result, will be displayed through May 16.

Abstract art is, of course, about itself, about method and gesture; about texture, pigment, form; about repudiation of content, narrative and representation; about the infinite variety of activities through which a surface can be animated. Yet the process of making abstract art entails paradoxical senses of intuition and precision, spontaneity and purpose, that seem to necessitate an inner state of questioning or searching or the euphoria of certainty. Whether content is, as Willem de Kooning said, “very tiny, a glimpse” or a more tangible pass at the evanescent, abstract art presents artist and viewer with the conundrum of nascent meaning versus pure formalism.

Each artist in “Between the Eyes” — a reference to the Hindu belief that a spiritual eye exists in the forehead between the two physical eyes, also found in other religions and philosophies — approaches these concerns in markedly different manner, yet the exhibition coheres beautifully. A number of contrasts could not be more striking. Iva Gueorguieva works on an immense scale and with a boundless energy and busy range that seem to encapsulate the whole history of abstract painting. Marina Adams produces almost equally large paintings that in their simple, bright hues and voluptuous shapes echo poster-like notions of the eternal return.

Rubens Ghenov, on the other hand, offers gorgeous little acrylic on linen paintings — 20-by-16 inches — that in their strict geometrical lines and shapes and their fleeting touches of fluidity foster a feeling of interiority and serene nostalgia. Also working in a small format is Rob de Oude, whose 16-by-16-inch oil- and acrylic-on-panel pieces, squares turned slantwise, are the most intricate, hypnotic, even obsessive in the exhibition.

Joe Fyfe is not a painter but a magician of wood, fabric and plastic as well as a subtle commentator on his predecessors, especially Eva Hesse. His wall pieces, especially the simple but weirdly somber and monumental “Vihn Long” — perhaps a reference to the city in the extreme southern region of Vietnam — composed of adjacent pieces of felt and plastic, convey a strange feeling of the inevitable. Finally, the work of the show’s organizer, Laurel Sucsy, is fluid, brushy, contingent and extemporaneous, revealing a fine and unusual sense of color and juxtaposition.

Devoting one or two sentences to each of six artists cannot in this space offer a complete sense of how gratifying and beautiful this exhibition is. One feels from each artist a sense of striving, a feeling of private labor and revelation resulting in objects, surfaces and planes, hues and forms and individual interpretations of what it means to be static or dynamic, gnomic or referential, geometrical or flowing, even spiritual or secular. One can learn a lot here, about the mysteries of the human spirit and the questions that need not be asked.

Image: Iva Gueorguieva, Vanishing (after Perugino), 2013, Acrylic, collage and oil on canvas, 76 x 81 inches, 193 x 205.7 cm