About a month ago, we told you about Chris Pekoc’s Hand Made exhibitions at the Akron Art Museum. While reviewing Pekoc’s work in Tregoning’s South Gallery, we were introduced to the latest paintings by James March in the North Gallery. The work seemed so drastically different that it warranted further investigation.
March received his B.A. from Cleveland State University before attaining his M.F.A. from Kent State. He won the Ohio Arts Prize for Painting in 2009. He’s had dozens of solo shows locally, as well as nationally. His paintings reside in the permanent collections of PNC Bank, Targetronics Corporation, Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University.
His previous work included precise, hard-edged geometric abstraction and Op Art. While these new paintings have occasional, similar elements, the work seemed to be a drastic change. However, upon a second visit, and a conversation with March, this new direction began to seem more like an evolutionary step than a drastic shift.
The exhibition’s title, CASSINI and Beyond, is based on NASA’s unmanned spacecraft observing Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. March’s CASSINI series is a collection of paintings located throughout the gallery. Each of them features a small triangle shape of color meant to signify the spacecraft. This idea of space exploration is critical to understanding March’s evolutionary process. The artist is literally exploring the “space” of his canvas. And he’s given you a little spaceship to come explore it too.
If you’re a fan of bright, bold colors, you’re going to love this show. Each canvas seems to feature a full range of colors, many straight out of the paint tubes. However, upon further examination, each painting features a unique combination of hues. Out of the dozens of colorful paintings, there are no two with the exact same color palette.
Departing from his previous, precisely planned process, these new paintings are completely improvised in a spontaneous, reactionary method. For the first time in his career, March has traded his paintbrushes for palette knives and cardboard. March begins each work by pulling and scraping acrylic paint across his canvases, reminiscent of legendary German Abstract Expressionist Gerhard Richter. On top of these abstract paintings, March adds elements of his more geometric Op Art. March uses his knowledge of color theory and the principles and elements of design to place lines and forms on top of the initial paintings.
Some of these elements seem to form an ambiguous perspective, giving the viewer a sense of visual depth to the canvas. Additionally, a number of works include circles that resemble planets, adding to the theme of space travel.
There are thousands of art students all over the world pulling and scraping paint across canvases, but March’s additional use of Op Art elements sets the work apart. His use of spacecraft as a symbolic allusion to his own explorations of (visual) space is a perfect metaphor.
Abstract art isn’t necessarily meant to be easily accessible everyone. March’s latest work takes some effort on the part of the viewer; especially for those who aren’t fans of bold, bright colors or abstract work. However, March’s additional step beyond traditional, abstract painting is a necessary one in the evolution of the media. The technique itself could, and should, be explored much further.
Jump in your own spaceship and get to Tregoning and Co. before the end of March to see CASSINI and Beyond before it’s gone.
Tregoning & Co. at 78th Street Studios, 1300 W. 78th St., 216-281-8626, tregoningandco.com