Patricia Sweetow Gallery is pleased to introduce Julia Couzens, Helen O’Leary and Cornelia Schulz in Assembled. The exhibition brings together three women whose art practices explore the formal and intuitive in assemblage and construction. With their richly evocative diversity of materials, each artist’s approach of obscuring and revealing content tells oblique narratives of personal, social and cultural reckoning. The exhibition opens Saturday, October 20th with a reception from 4 – 6pm, and closes December 1.
There’s a centuries-strong tradition of artists working with fiber to wrap, stretch, contort and otherwise manipulate over, into, and around inanimate objects forming figurative and abstract sculptural forms. Sheila Hicks, Shinique Smith, and Outsider artist Judith Scott are among them. Julia Couzens’s hybrid practice expands upon this legacy of exploring the many aspects of working with fiber and textiles.
Receiving her MFA from the University of California, Davis, Julia Couzens began working with fiber in the 1990s. Conversant with Modernist sculptural traditions, she pivots craft and domestic textile traditions into drawing, painting and sculpture. Couzens views her studio practice as a collaboration with anonymous others as she stitches, bundles, and sutures fabrics that have history, or in lay terms, used, discarded, worn, damaged mercantile goods. Layering her collection of materials, she composes intricate fabrications into “metaphorical objects of memory.” On view in this exhibition is an ongoing exploration of fiber sculpture Couzens refers to as Bundles. With wire armatures these floating gestural riffs on tapestries punctuate the environment like elaborate woven satellites.
Julia Couzens received the The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Fellowship, New York and the Art Matters Foundation Award, New York. Collections include Yale University Art Museum, New Haven, CT; Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC; The Frederick Weisman Foundation, Los Angeles, CA; Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA; University Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, The Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, CA. Exhibitions include Armand Hammer Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and Nevada Institute for Contemporary Art, Las Vegas, NV among others.
Subverting our notion of painting into an unconventional organization of formal and organic relationships, Helen O’Leary assembles elegant formulations of broken wood and stretched fiber into the gestural lyricism of reimagined sculptural paintings. O’Leary describes herself as a painter who tells stories from the archeology and ruins of deconstructed materials within her studio. Growing up in Ireland and relocating to the United States, her sculptural paintings become the memoir of two countries, an idiosyncratic aggregate of fragile gridded fragments. Her accumulation of stretchers, panels, frames, & linen are cut into small pieces, retaining staples, glue and any number of sundry material for re-assemblage into the unconventional enigmatic paintings on view. “Throughout my career, I have been constructing a very personal and idiomatic formal language based in simple materials and unglamorous gestures, a framework which functions as a kind of syntactical grid of shifting equivalences. The ‘paintings’ that emerge from this process know their family history, a narrative of greatness fallen on hard times”.
Helen O’Leary was born in County Wexford, Ireland, and received her BFA and MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since 1991 she has been a Professor at the School of Visual Arts at Penn State University. O’Leary was recently awarded a John S. Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts, as well as the 2018–19 Rome Prize and Italian Fellowship from The American Academy in Rome. Additional awards include two Pollock-Krasner awards, and a Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture. Exhibitions include the National Gallery of Art, Limerick, Ireland; Glasgow Museum of Art, Glasgow, Scotland; The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia; and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY. Her work is represented in national and international collections. O’Leary lives and works in New Jersey and Ireland.
Cornelia Schulz has honed her skills in small format paintings of complex shape and color over many decades. Studying sculpture at Los Angeles County Art Institute in the 1950’s, Schulz learned 3-D modeling techniques in steel and wood which proved important in subsequent years. Her altered rectilinear shapes are hand built wood supports, stretched with canvas. Using a knife, Schulz slices and swirls paint into a complex brew of color, gestural oppositions and hair raising improbabilities. The paintings while clearly 2-D, hold the viewers attention as sculptural objects of unerring integrity, a unique distillation of intent and accident only a master can impart.
Cornelia Schulz is an important Northern California painter and educator who has influenced generations of artists. Her paintings are included in national and international collections. Schulz is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, where she taught for 30 years and twice chaired the Fine Art Department.