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With roots in the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s and 1980s, Los Angeles artist Merion Estes has developed works on paper and fabric that incorporate beautifully abstract images along with references principally to Japanese and Chinese art, but the art of other countries is evident as well. Upon many of these fabrics, Estes applies photographic collages of her own creation, along with paint. The very use of her materials, moreover, help to make these works politically controversial.
As a result, these works represent stunning fields of color which do a number of things: often covering over and/or actually seeming to hide the images, as in, for example, Lost Horizons 2, and Lost Horizons 47 in her new show at the Clyde Beswick’s CB1 Gallery. In the latter work the yellow bands horizontally and, partially, vertically — somewhat like peering through a bamboo window — obscure what appears as almost a secret shrine, replete with a moon-like disk that appears in several of her works.
Several of her works depict “arches,” or what I might describe as abstract ovoid images which, quite obviously, posit a kind of feminist figuring onto the brightly painted landscapes. These egg-like shapes float alongside and over the natural world and yet, as in Lost Horizons 48, create an oddly unbalanced floating world. Trees seem smaller than the spiraling and whirling suns, while the egg-shaped figures dominate this cramped pictorial space, as if to say new life hovers over all that has come to birth.
Although the horizons in these small lovely collaged works have been somehow lost, they represent something that makes us aware of the world that might have once existed — and perhaps still does — just outside the frame. Nowhere is this more true than in the artists’ spray-painted work on fabric, Cooling Trend, which suggests a lyrical hothouse world — one punctuated by birds, leaping fish, sperm-like figures, and jungle-like flowers. In the center of the fantastical space flows a light-blue veil of a stream through which tiny guppies seem to leaping across the bright oranges, yellows, and spring-like dabs of green. If the ovoid forms in some of her smaller works suggest new life, this entire work celebrates that inevitability. This work is about pure fecundity, about the simple joy of living hot and cool, of being excited with life and enjoying its pleasures simultaneously.