Claire Colette Re-Enchants Geometric Abstraction


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Adityas by Claire Colette and other works come to Johansson Projects.

Claire Colette, Courtesy Johansson Projects

Geometric abstraction is usually considered to have originated in the United States in the 1960s, with innovative painters like Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Lawrence Poons, Ellsworth Kelly, and others, who ostensibly took the modernist painting to its logical conclusions. Perhaps the art critic and prophet of that era’s formalist analysis, Clement Greenberg, was unaware of it, but geometric abstraction actually originated a half century before, in Europe—with Kasimir Malevich’s revolutionary Suprematism, and it was anything but an exercise in formalist pure visual aesthetics. Malevich was utopian without reservations or embarrassment, a Christian mystic from the Ukraine who found in the black square (a motif that adorns his grave) an icon for a new age; Mondrian, similarly, now known for his primary-colored stripes, was deeply influenced by Theosophy, the alternative religion of disaffected fin-de-siècle intellectuals.

Claire Colette’s abstractions in Monument Eternal continue this lineage of spiritual abstraction. The show’s title is borrowed from Franya Berkman’s creative and spiritual biography of Alice Coltrane (the wife of John Coltrane in the 1960s), a brilliant musician and composer who fused gospel, rhythm and blues, jazz, bebop, Hindu devotional hymns, and European classical music, and, as Swamini Turiya Sangitananda, performed with other musicians pursuing “spiritual aesthetics.”

Colette’s paintings depict the sacred architecture and the creation myths of various cultures, along with the astronomical phenomena studied throughout human history, but they’re filtered though a minimalist, modernist sensibility. Without titles like The End Is the Beginning, The First Hour of the World, or Adityas, referring to the offspring of Aditi, mother of the Hindu gods, one might not discern the spiritual dimension, still problematic for those raised on the outworn creed of dogmatic materialism yet capable of suspending considerable disbelief in art, fashion, and politics.

Monument Eternal runs through Oct. 28. Reception Sept. 9, 3-5 p.m.; open Thursday through Saturday 1-5 p.m. and by appointment; Johansson Projects, 2300 Broadway, Oakland, 510-444-9140, JohanssonProjects.com.

 

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