“Is the world geometric?” asked Amédée Ozenfant in a 1928 text, decades after Cubism’s advent. Geometric abstraction persists as a method because, if abstraction devolves into too much visual noise, one can always trust geometry. The grid is often the reliable fall-back, but one should not forget the triangle: A symbol in the Catholic tradition, and a shape that best pictures the act of transformation, that common human desire. As a tool of secular geometry, though, the triangle need not omit the unseen and the unknown.
In this two-person exhibition, Pierce and Shackleford investigate geometry as a transformative device. Two selections from Pierce’s “Triangle is the Strongest Shape” series, from 2010 and 2011, open the show. The square canvases, each about as tall as a person, present a field of optically vibrating triangles. Pierce covers each plane with a subtle, hazy gradient of paint, then cuts away certain triangles to form a handmade pattern that, like a piece of machined music, playfully controls the viewer’s experience of constructed space and rhythm. Intentional flaws in Pierce’s patterns operate like wormholes, allowing the real world to enter the theoretical vacuum of geometry.
Shackleford’s practice, meanwhile, involves painting, drawing, and placing sculptures atop found vintage images of modern pastoral life. Mountainscapes and waterfalls, a country drive and a well-appointed bourgeois sitting room are layered behind big, moody screens of paints or filtered through complicated, hand-drawn patterns. Shackleford then photographs the new, layered image, flattening it. Shackleford’s interventions either extend the found imagery or obliterate it, introducing fractured infrastructural elements akin to the extra-perceptual technique of Cubism. The passive images, plucked from magazines and stuck in time—artifacts of representation depicting an invented natural picturesque, promises of middle-class transcendence, and ‘the good life’—are refurbished by the artist’s frenetic additions as if to materialize the usual pastime of poring over magazines, looking for tokens of identification and desire.
Published in Modern Painters (February 2012)