"Romantic Matter and Other Theories," Kris Iden's new exhibition at Main Art, started me remembering a poem by Charles Baudelaire called "Correspondences," and I went digging for it. This led to a lost afternoon consumed by that compulsion (or entrapment) that many will recognize falling into a hypnotic state, whether at the library or the mall, originally begat by the need to select one simple item. I rummaged through poems by Baudelaire, Stephane Mallarme, Guillame Appolinaire and Paul Verlaine, all the while thinking that each would be an excellent poem to exerpt at the outset of a review on Iden's new intaglios. That is because Iden's work is abstract, and abstract art always seems to want, or to instigate, a christening of something mnemonic.
Among these empathetic French poets' allusions there were references to rarified landscapes and to other highly piquant scenes or moods. References to calm moonlight among dark verdant silhouettes, to the white arms of young girls and corpses, to the terrors of dying while sleeping alone and to imperious night becoming luminous morning.
Nearly every poem in this survey could have been illuminated quite appropriately and freshly by one of Iden's prints, given the murky but glowing, complex and yet distilled phenomenology made manifest in both art forms.
But Iden's style is in no way arrested in 19th-century pictorial fashion. No Impressionistic train stations or dressed-up social gatherings shimmer here, there are no Symbolists in the mist or Fauves in the foliage. Instead, there is deep dusk without any further hue than the polemic intercourse of moonbeamed fields or scratched furrows of black and white. Color-free as if issued from an early satellite transmission, Iden's romantic interludes are more like landmasses in love, separated by irreconcilable differences, divorced by plate tectonics.
Iden's sumptuous surface effects, the result of random paper fiber and calculated indulgences of black ink, are, indeed, as Robert Stuart, a painter who is quoted in the press release, writes, "soft, soothing...feathery" in their blackness. They are also unnerving and urgent in the manner of a precipice that one stands too near, an oblivion that draws things into its mouth or along its course. This is especially applicable to the six works from the series "Exotic Forms of Dark Matter."
Judging by Main Art's installation, Iden appears to favor producing her series in even numbers that can break down to odd sets. Her grouping "Quantum Poetics for a French Marigold" marvels at the unfurling petals of the humble marigold. The petals, contoured by Iden and reduced to squiggles of life, serve the observant as a close-at-hand, garden-variety explanation of a theory from quantum physics. In these, the intaglio-printed squares in the center introduce the judicious exploits of the scientist, while the small embossed white-on-white spiral shapes quietly go about their sacred, playful business.
Another horizontal series "Flatland Minuet" is accomplished in four-part harmony. Drawing its inspiration from an obscure Victorian treatise on social customs of the time, its metaphors of men and women as dashes and dots on a leveled horizon ultimately prove applicable to some equally obscure (certainly to this writer) contemporary scientific hypothesis on space.
"Romantic Matter and Other Theories" is a small, exquisite contemplation of opposites and affinities. Concluding the feats of breathing, flowing, unfurling or orbiting, each small scene is a microscopic snapshot of creation.
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