Jenny Brillhart's Lot Lines
Show at Crealdé explores neglected spaces in the urban fabric
Published: March 31, 2011
Through May 28
Crealdé School of Art
600 Saint Andrews Blvd., Winter Park
Miami artist Jenny Brillhart's austere sense of place graces the Alice and William Jenkins Gallery at Crealde's main campus. Brillhart, who studied at the New York Academy of Art and the Arts Students League in New York, is beginning to catch the attention of the art world. She has shown her works in galleries in New York, Miami and Berlin, and she was published in both the Miami Contemporary Artists book and a juried publication called New American Paintings.
Her eye for the unconscious aesthetic of urban spaces may frustrate architects and new urbanists, who would chafe at the Walgreens signs, downspouts and dryer vents she so lovingly renders in her collages and paintings. They are part of our reality, however, and her facades and streetscapes transport this mundane scenery to a serene, contemplative plane.
In this show, Brillhart includes collages representing urban landscapes. She maps them out according to lot lines created by city streets and lays photographs - presumably representative of the buildings that occupy the lots - in the spaces where buildings would sit. She touches up the photos with color, obfuscating bits of the buildings. From afar, the paintings read as abstractions that contain glimpses of the last century's building stock, and their orthogonal composition syncopates the brilliant pastel colors of Miami's streets.
If this were the sum total of the work, it would seem hollow and unsatisfying, but there is more to it than just these pastel planes of mint and pink. She also includes a number of paintings in the show that give the viewer an understanding of her process. "Pink Warehouse on 71st," for instance, is a portrait of a streetscape that's both ordinary and abstract at the same time. It represents a ladder, a dark loading dock and an innocent conduit caught up in a drama of composition and tension, and the delicious juxtaposition of these elements hits you hard: The objects are there, unplanned, yet they all seem to hang together so beautifully that just moving, say, the ladder even an inch or two would ruin the effect.
Brillhart has caught the unconscious beauty of this urban vernacular, elevating it and letting reality slip into abstraction. These pools, trailers and wrecked pylon signs are visual versions of the literary antihero: flawed, imperfect protagonists with sensitivity and feeling and a mission all the same.
Her painted urban photo collages can be read in a similar manner. Peter Boswell, curator of the Miami Art Museum noted in New American Paintings that her "flat architectural planes … exploit the tension between abstract surface design and representational illusion." This is an apt description of her Lot Lines projects. She frees ordinary details, like the aforementioned Walgreens sign, from the tyranny of our aesthetic sensibilities and looks at them as compositional elements in our urban fabric. We tend to overlook these things as clutter; Brillhart strives to reveal the beauty in these overlooked things and spaces along our sidewalks and hidden among weeds.
The quiet reflection engendered by her paintings and collages releases the viewer to find the sacred in an environment all too often labeled as profane.
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