The Green Integer Blog supplements our Green Integer website with essays on various cultural topics by editor/publisher Douglas Messerli, along with a listing of Green Integer titles and information on our new books. Please note that all essays and commentary are copyrighted by the author, Douglas Messerli, and may not be republished without permission.
Natural History (on Don Suggs' show "Thermal Pool Paintings and Paradise Prints")
by Douglas Messerli
Suggs Thermal Pool Paintings and
Paradise Prints, LA Louver, May 24-June 30, 2012
In his newest show, “Thermal Pool Paintings and
Paradise Prints,” at LA Louver gallery in Venice, artist Don Suggs again shows
work that, at first sight, may appear to be brightly colored geometric
abstractions in the shape of targets. Upstairs in the gallery, however, he has branched
out into large black and white photographic prints of famed natural sites from
national parks such as Zion and Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona, along with
scenes, vaguely reminiscent of photographer Ansel Adams, of clouds, California
beaches, and other natural wonders—within which he has again inserted images of
his brightly colored target-like paintings, produced by ink-jet.
What becomes apparent in this show,
particularly through the seemingly oppositional images of nature and his
colored wheels, is that Suggs’ works are not what they first appear to be.
Rather than simply being highly colored geometric shapes, the paintings are
associative images of various thermal pools in Yellowstone National Park, and
relate most specifically to the photographic prints.
Suggs explained that his choice of colors
depends on various combinations of the time of day, the slant of the sun, and
other natural phenomena surrounding the pools, including, perhaps, his own
emotional responses to the natural sites. Pod,
for example, is a picture of a mountain peak, where below a group of Korean
sight-seers are gathered, small figures in the foreground looking up at the
towering natural wonder. The colors of the circular image imposed just above
their heads—golden yellows and olive greens— was determined, he told me, by
their nearby tourist bus, sporting those very hues. The couple peering through
an optical viewer of Sight do, in
fact, seem to be “taking a shot” at the looming tower of rock, reflected again,
in the colors of the circular “target” hovering over their heads. Zion Rose, a photograph of “Angel’s
Landing” in Zion National Park, is illuminated with a circular form that
features, pinks, greens, and reds, suggesting the colors of that flowering
beach palms of di Suvero, a reference
to the sculptor, Mark di Suvero, whose art is embedded within the palms, has
all the hot pinks and coral colors that one associates with the Venice beach of
Los Angeles, a block away from the gallery.
this context Suggs’ paintings take on new meanings as their abstractions give way to more associative and even private
combinations of intense color, helping one to understand why, as Suggs puts it,
“I see these pools differently every time I observe them.”
new show, accordingly, reveals that, while his work still clearly has
connections with abstraction and conceptual art, Suggs is perhaps more of a
natural historian, an artist who connects the moment of creation not only to
nature but to what was happening at those natural sites at the very moment of
his witnessing of them, thus balancing the sense of their permanence with the
very human moments in time through which we glimpse their significance.