April 9 — May 15, 2021

Feeling Like an Abstraction

Erin Curtis

Conduit Gallery is pleased to present Feeling Like an Abstraction, a solo exhibition of work by Austin based artist Erin Curtis.

In the formless months of the pandemic summer, that became fall and winter and spring again, time is marked with astrology podcasts, Marketplace gurus, weeks of Mondays and an unknown future. The paintings created for this show are evidence of a process and a time outside of time.

The works in the show reflect a dedication to forms of abstraction not found in museums and galleries, but in homes — specifically textiles created for comfort, pleasure, and utility. The heart of the show are multi-layered, cut canvas paintings inspired by traditional hand-woven textiles and the women who sew their stories into garments, quilts and rugs that tell their hopes, warm their families and become their walls.

The paintings are filled with buzzing energy and imagery that veers from pure abstraction to fractured and veiled landscapes. The dense surfaces of cut and layered canvases present confused mandalas, searching for order and balance in the increasingly dense and obscure patterning and color. Cut out and rearranged signs and symbols - spiked necklaces, stacked pentagons, and upturned horseshoes - are embedded like secret messages throughout the canvas, both disrupting its surface, but also giving the painting structure.

In Acres, lush and rich grassy lawns, flanked by screens of trees and dappled light, are overlayed with incised patterning that runs over the image like an emergency message — a psychedelic bourgeois vision connecting a real world with an imagined one.

Stripes of gumdrop color run up and down Bottle in a Painting, the baby blues, soft pinks, and lemon yellows tumbling over each other, contained by a pattern without order. Found within the lines of color and shapes are two, cut-out, upended bottles lying on their side - as if the empty bottles might have inspired the painting, or perhaps fueled it.

A pair of sky paintings, Night and Day, depict billowing clouds that seem to join and move in and out of view. Etched in the surface, shapes that could be snakes or vertical waves hang in the sky.

The series of ten collages included in the show are preludes and postscripts to the paintings. Containing found images of snakes, teeth, and candles, among others, they are directly linked to the world of old books, found by chance or sought out online, and to the meditative act of cutting and ordering. The works act both as ruminations on form, and visual spells, calling for light, comfort, and sometimes dark foretelling.

The repetitive marks and patterns in the paintings and collages count the minutes, hours, weeks and months they were worked on and time becomes a material as much as paint or canvas. In an era where the digital world is becoming more and more of our whole world, these paintings resist, becoming more deeply rooted to the physical, the body and the hand.

Erin Curtis is an artist living and working in Austin, Texas. Her recent work is interested in geometric abstraction and its intersection with representations of nature, ornamentation and their historical roots in weaving, architecture and ritual. Curtis’s work explores utopic ideals of beauty and structure, meeting with process and the chaos of chance. Primarily working as a painter, she also creates, large-scale site-specific installations and public art projects. She has received grants from the Dallas Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Foundation, the City of Austin and the District of Columbia. Recently, Curtis had solo shows at the Galveston Arts Center (2019), CalPoly San Luis Obispo University, California (2016), Big Medium Gallery in Austin, Texas (2015) and at Flashpoint Gallery (2015) in Washington, DC. She has created commissioned works for the Chicago Transit Authority, Moody Center for the Arts, Rice University, City of Washington DC, Art in Embassies and The City of Austin. Curtis has attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2010 and been awarded fully funded residencies at Anderson Ranch (2012) and Vermont Studio Center (2014). In 2008-2009, Curtis was a Fulbright Scholar in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Curtis graduated from Williams College with a BA in Liberal Arts in 1999 and received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007.

Artist Video