Reminiscences So Truthful and Vibrant

SAN FRANCISCO — The e-mail announcement for Kimetha Vanderveen at Peter Mendenhall Gallery (February 11–April 1, 2023) jogged my memory of the afternoon I spent in her sunlit studio in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Level Shipyard on the finish of October 2022. Till then I had seen her work solely digitally, not in particular person. After an e-mail introduction from a mutual good friend, we met in a espresso store in early February 2022 in New York’s Koreatown. Regardless that I had no thought when, or even when, I’d journey once more at that time, I instructed Kimetha that I’d go to her studio the subsequent time I used to be in San Francisco. One thing concerning the work’s modest scale and evocation of sunshine by materiality piqued my curiosity. That is how, six months later, I ended up in her studio.

As Vanderveen started to point out me her works, lots of them nuanced monochromatic oil work on panels that had been lower than eight by eight inches, I returned to a query requested by Joe Brainard and Thomas Nozkowski: how large does a murals need to be? Although definitely many summary artists working monochromatically have made bigger items, I didn’t really feel that Vanderveen’s works wanted to be larger. What was it about them that demanded they be small?

We regularly consider monochromatic work as a strong discipline of a single shade. Vanderveen does one thing totally different. She paints one pale shade over one other in order that traces of the earlier layer peek by faintly. In a single work, I discovered myself specializing in a brushstroke that strikes throughout the floor, gently and exactly, inflicting the colour on both sides of it to alter barely. Vanderveen is a tonalist. Her work are concerning the interplay of materiality and lightweight, the bond between the palpable and ephemeral world through which we dwell.

Vanderveen desires the viewer to scrutinize her work, to change into conscious of the tonal shifts and gradations, in addition to the interplay between the paint and the sunshine emanating from its materials floor. They’re meditations on time passing, which I feel is the important topic of her work. 

Kimetha Vanderveen, “Untitled” (2022), oil on panel, 6 x 6 inches

As quickly as I noticed the watercolors that Vanderveen had positioned on the desk earlier than me in her studio, I wished to put in writing about them. The 15 watercolors, every measuring 5 by seven inches, had been all made close to a lake in Camden, Maine, over the course of some hours in the summertime of 2022; she began within the early morning and stopped within the mid-afternoon. They’re a quietly joyous diary of sunshine altering and time’s passage. On the similar time, the sense of time passing and the aloofness of the fabric world introduce notes of loss and mourning into every view.

Vanderveen divides the horizontal format into three areas: lake, hills, and sky. The center band is usually the darkest in shade and probably the most outlined in form. The angle shifts all through, because the artist modifications her place barely or gazes in a special course. She appears to have used solely 4 pale colours in all of the works: grey, blue, inexperienced, and yellow. The paper’s floor at all times peeks by. Whereas she used a brush, the dried puddles or stains present no signal of her hand. A number of the works method illustration, whereas others solely cohered as landscapes after I reminded myself of what I used to be — and even then I used to be not at all times certain of what I used to be seeing. That slippage appears to me to be essential to the work. Vanderveen shouldn’t be making an attempt to call one thing a lot as depict — in these works at the least — change and impermanence, the passing second. If the watercolors are supposed to be reminiscence aids, a report of a day spent by a lake in Camden, they’re additionally a few world disappearing from sight and the faultiness of reminiscence. The modestly scaled watercolors hover between type and dissipation. I remembered the primary stanza of Henry Vaughn’s poem “They Are All Gone into the World of Gentle”:

They're all gone into the world of sunshine!
And I alone sit ling’ring right here;
Their very reminiscence is honest and shiny,
And my unhappy ideas doth clear.

For this reason I saved Vanderveen’s work and watercolors, and why they’ve stayed in my thoughts.

Kimetha Vanderveen, “Untitled” (2022), watercolor on paper, 5 x 7 inches
Kimetha Vanderveen, “Untitled” (2022), watercolor on paper, 5 x 7 inches

Kimetha Vanderveen continues at Peter Mendenhall Gallery (180 South Lake Avenue, Suite 110, Pasadena, California) by April 1. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.