Breaks in the story
The fragmented visions of Rebecca Wallace’s paintings
At first glance, the paintings of Rebecca Wallace’s exhibition, All the King’s Horses, appear to be collages composed of fragments cut from larger images and pasted together to evoke some greater cohesion. But the pieces are actually single-canvas paintings, the fragmented imagery arranged on the surface by the Paradise artist’s hand and brush in emulation of the king’s men of the show’s nursery rhyme title.
Leading off the program list is “Steadfast Rip” ($1,100), the main image of which depicts a horse and a woman in proper English riding garb superimposed over a checkerboard pattern of gray and white squares, which on the left are interceded by a semi-abstract, somewhat oceanic view presided over by an ominously clouded sky broken by a vertical shaft of pale blue. To the right of the rider, a Cezannesque line of cypress trees casts its parallel shadows in the direction of the horse’s head, occluded by a rip in the scene.
Referring to her work, the artist states on her website, “Image fragments are used as a means to refer back to the idea of the whole, implicating romantic notions of landscape and creating a narrative, which never quite gels.” Even if not quite sure of the literal meaning, if any, of this statement, I’m inclined to agree wholeheartedly with its concluding phrase. And by illustrating the incomprehensibilty of modern life, Wallace’s collection can be viewed as a resounding theoretical success.
Aesthetically, one of my favorite pieces in the exhibition is “Reflective” ($300), a small oil-on-canvas piece with visual elements of hurricane fencing, an orange sunset with childlike flying bird silhouettes under a gray sky, in which a large pink “wall” separates the sunset image from an amorphous abstract landscape. Perfectly complementing and balancing the dominant pink plane, an anomalous smear of bright green with white highlights coaxes the eye into refocusing on the painting’s representational details. The effect is simultaneously exhilarating and calming.
Another favorite piece is an untitled oil on canvas with gold leaf ($350) that depicts a rather heavy-bodied wolf snarling over what could be interpreted as a slice of gold-leaf pizza. A vertical shaft of white emits a glowing smear of light and the background shifts from roughly rendered landscape to an abstract, not-quite-cubistic backdrop accented with vertical indigo bars. The impression is ambiguously, but quite evocatively, narrative.
As Wallace tells us, “By compiling bits of images, which I think of as visual acronyms, I attempt to secure some sort of foothold or locate a sense of personal identity amidst this glut of information.”
Dominating the rear wall of the gallery, the large oil and acrylic “Rainbow Chasers” ($1,200) successfully demonstrates the effectiveness of Wallace’s narrative technique. At upper left, an ornate, antiquated wall sconce floats above a field of blue-green wallpaper print. Proceeding diagonally toward bottom right, the eye passes over a deeper patch of blue that contains a disintegrating mushroom cloud and becomes captured by the face of a golden-haired young woman lounging against a cabinet. Her cocked eyebrow evokes a haughty or disdainful mood as a rainbow’s arc touches down above her head and a black stallion gallops across a gray prairie toward a pastoral green meadow where a cow grazes serenely near a tree-lined pond. Each element is separate and complete, but combined on the canvas the images resonate against and around each other, creating a narrative that, as the artist states in the program, “is left for the viewer to decide.”