Karen Jacobs' exhibition at Perry Nicole Fine Art is another ingenious mix of culture and genre. For "Bokusho" (Japanese for abstract brushwork), this St. Louis artist painted thousands of calligraphic strokes onto hundreds of scraps of canvas collaged into complex grids.
At the center of a particularly evocative painting, Construct II, ragged rectangles float in a pattern reminiscent of a kimono with arms stretched-out. Rather than honoring biological ancestors, Construct II's nuanced background, irregular geometric shapes, and expressive gestures pay homage to abstract calligraphers and other artists who have influenced Jacobs' style, including Hans Hofmann, Mark Rothko, and Richard Diebenkorn.
Enso is the Zen symbol for circle of enlightenment. In one of Jacobs' most powerful works, Enso Red, the dark-red background looks like the page of a book that has been written on, scraped off, and used again and again. The large calligraphic gesture at the center of the painting is frayed and scumbled. Pieces break off near its nadir. Instead of suggesting Platonic or Zen perfection, Jacobs' circle brings to mind the Japanese aesthetic of "wabi-sabi," the beauty of the natural cycles of growth, decay, and death. Here is the passion and pathos of existence, of life devouring life to sustain itself.
Karen Jacobs: "Bokusho" at Perry Nicole Fine Art through May 29th
Only a couple of small mistakes... I'm not a St. Louis artist and my marks are made on rice paper not canvas scraps. No biggie, I'm pleased. Carol called me prior to submitting the review to double check a few things and was very complimentary of my work, has been following it, promised a single page review when I have my next solo at the gallery. (May have to rethink the 'no more solo shows' declaration???) Just take it as it comes, KJ!