Through July 31, 2021
By JONATHAN OROZCO, August 2021
Flowers and…. cowhide? What’s the connection between these two seemingly disparate things? That was my initial reaction to viewing new works by Los Angeles-based artists Thomas Linder and Mabel Moore at Maple St. Construct in Omaha. On the surface, both artists appear to have painted distinct abstracted scenes using different mediums and supports, but they are unified by their attention to movement, whether controlled or gestural.
For Linder, painting on cowhides was truly a departure from his sculptural fiberglass practice, and more broadly, a departure from the history of painting for the past few hundreds of years. The rectangular canvas becomes a symmetrical and biomorphic form Linder transforms into faces, pool tables, fishes, and in this case, automatic paintings.
Two standout paintings titled “Veil House” and “Lidilidili” are covered with doodle-like lines that curve and weave over each other. It’s as if Linder was playing a game of pong over the cowhides, letting his brush bounce around, but never touching another line.
These are humorous paintings with little jokes you’ll only get if you talk to the artist. For example, “Lidilidili” isn’t just a tongue twister, but a stylized way of saying “Little Italy,” the neighborhood where both Linder and Moore created these artworks. The stripes on this work look like neon signs at night, using bright yellows, whites, and blues, reds, and greens.
Linder’s paintings are also embedded within the history of Surrealism, with a direct connection to Meret Oppenheim’s fur covered cup, saucer and spoon. That distinct visceral reaction you get when viewing Oppenheim’s work also exists with Linder’s paintings. Up close, the smeared paint application shifts and combs the cow fur in distinct directions and looks like wet or heavily gelled hair.
Moore, on the other hand, keeps within the tradition rectangular canvas, recalling Impressionist and Abstract Expressionist painting methods. Her works dramatically depict floral motifs with highly gestural techniques that, at points, look like Cy Twombly paintings. Moore oscillates from naturalistic to almost indistinct imagery that only implies flora, like in “Flower rage.” Without the title, a viewer would probably not be able to distinguish her evergreen, salmon, and pink clusters of flowers against a sky.
The artist’s goals, more than anything, is to establish an ethereal atmosphere with her paintings, citing Helen Frankenthaler as an inspiration. One work titled “Lay down in the tall grass” captures this in what otherwise looks like a painting of flowers blowing in the wind. The swaying and directionality of the composition from lower left to upper right provides a compelling thrust in establishing that otherworldly ambience and composition.
As a whole, the exhibition Floral Rodeo was an opportunity for both Linder and Moore to experiment with new imagery in a context outside of Los Angeles. Circling back to my original question about the connection between flowers and cowhide: maybe there is none, but both combined allow for play within art. WM