In the exhibition Breeze Shapes, a continuation of a decade-long body of work, Michael Russell seeks to create pictures of calmness through a repetitive mark-making process. Small ink and graphite lines repeat in organized arrangements developing into minimalist compositions. The marks express the passage of time in grayscale and reflect the quiet nature of the process. Fluctuations in negative space and scale further emphasize duration as a subject matter. The drawings are of abstract shapes and free-floating forms, but imply much more in their precision. Russell sees them operating as images between defined architectures and amoeba-like figures; lungs expanding and contracting into different forms.
Seeking to comprehend the passage of time remains a prevalent aspect of Michael Russell’s work. “Through drawing,” Russell says, “I aim to expand the capacity for my own introspection, as well as for those viewing my drawings. Mark-making carried out in a linear fashion leaves behind an idiosyncratic trail; documentation of time spent. I view the trace of my hand less as proof of labor, and more as the intimacy of process being laid bare. Rhythm is explicit and builds up to exude stillness. Movement found to be present in the compositions is that of a light breeze. Sweeping gestures are either absent, or mimed with smaller repetitive marks. Although the compositions are carefully engineered, the evolving techniques used to color them in are rudimentary.”
Throughout the exhibition lightness and volume vie sympathetically for prominence. Many forms appear weightless and airy, while simultaneously feeling as though they could be full of mass. The varying weight of marks, and shifts in scale and emptiness, contribute to an oscillating sense of volume. Iterations of drawings are included in multiple formats to press assumptions of what is “actual size.” Other exchanges include inversions of positive and negative space. Fields of gray tones in certain drawings are duplicated in other works as empty silhouettes of the originals, leaving a largely unfilled piece of paper as the finished work. The layout of the exhibition affirms additional formal relationships between the drawings to encourage double-takes and generate moments of reflection.
Michael Russell – Breeze Shapes
Exhibition Dates: March 4 to April 11, 2020
Reception: Saturday, March 7, 5pm to 7pm
Nancy Toomey Fine Art
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA