Hazed and confused

Ruth Pastine's Mirroring Offers a Kaleidoscopic, Enveloping Experience with Color

A new exhibition at Gallery Sonja Roesch plays with the eye and the mind.

By Elizabeth Myong September 15, 2017

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Installation view of (R) Matter of Light 14 -S4848 (Red Magenta), 2016 and (L) Misbehaving (Red Green), 2010.

The Idle chit-chat of other visitors greets me at the front door of Gallery Sonja Roesch, however the uncluttered main floor quickly invites me to a private experience with Ruth Pastine’s bold, new exhibition, “Mirroring.” Down the steps, my eyes are drawn to Matter of Light 3-S4848 on my left—gradations of blue and pink that fade in and out—which reminds me of the vibrantly colored, woven Mexican quilts popular throughout Texas. The color combination is striking and clearly in contrast to the next piece full of darker, muted tones.

Matter of light 3 s4848  red green magenta phthalo   matter of light series  2016  oil on canvas custom beveled stretcher  48 x 48 x 3 inches   webcopy copy dczrzp

Ruth Pastine, Matter of Light 3-S4848 (Red Green- Magenta Phthalo), 2016, Oil and Canvas; custom beveled stretcher, 48 x 48 x 3 inches.

As I try to focus on each swath of hazy color, I feel my eyes trying to adjust in order to sharpen the blurry edges and find some clarity, like my mind refuses to accept the utter lack of familiar shapes and forms. I am presented with a strange optical illusion; the color and haziness lead me into a strange world that lacks definition.

My eyes still seem to be having a hard time adjusting when I reach the forward-facing wall that features the central piece, Matter of Light 2-S4848: glowing squares of pinks, oranges, yellows, and reds that fade seamlessly into one another. I am pulled into a sunlit tunnel of yellow, like I'm looking into the end of a gigantic kaleidoscope.

But when I pull away from the individual pieces and look at the exhibition as a whole, I’m reminded of the exhibition’s name: “Mirroring.” The pieces are positioned to reflect one another. While no two pieces are identical, there is a thread of similarity that unites the pieces which hang on opposing walls. Two pairs, the darker toned pieces and the energetic, brightly colored spectrums of color, face off across the room as counterparts and competitors. The duos play off of one another by vying for attention but also by explaining the other’s existence. Again, I see the back-and-forth between community and individualism, clarity and obscurity.

Matter of light 2 s4848  red green magenta ochre   matter of light series  2016  oil on canvas custom beveled stretcher  48 x 48 x 3 inches  copy megjej

Ruth Pastine, Matter of Light 2-S4848 (Red Green- Magenta Ochre), 2016, Oil and Canvas; custom beveled stretcher, 48 x 48 x 3 inches.

Although I was disappointed to find out that Ruth Pastine would not be in attendance due to complications from Hurricane Harvey, perhaps this allows the exhibition to better serve its purpose by allowing me to interpret Pastine’s art with my own thoughts, a mirror to my own psyche.

This exhibition is both challenging and intriguing—it made me question my need for distinct shapes and commonplace objects that I could relate to my daily life because abstraction is uncertainty, something that makes me feel uncomfortable. The art truly toys with the mind, making me realize that there is always more than meets the eye.

Mirroring, thru Oct. 28. Artist talk with Ruth Pastine, Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. Gallery Sonja Roesch, 2309 Caroline St. 713-659-5424. More info at gallerysonjaroesch.com.

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