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Lena Wolff
at Traywick Contemporary, Berkeley, California
Recommendation by Dewitt Cheng

Continuing through December 17, 2011

Lena Wolff has employed the techniques and motifs of quilt-making to good effect in large cut-paper collages of recent years. In her current show of a dozen or so small collages, “Another Country,” she moves away from traditional figuration and narrative in favor of abstraction, symmetry and minimalism, using repeated elements — the triangles, squares and rhomboids that derive from stitchery’s pattern books — to construct iconic structures reminiscent of hard-edged painting, but enriched with cultural subtexts that went lacking, for the most part, in Stella, Noland, et al.

Despite this new pictorial rigor, works like “Double Eight-Pointed Star,” “Radiance Flag,” “Brown Star (Toward Becoming a Compass),” “Eight-Pointed Star with Sun” and “Yellow Dahlia” have a comforter-like familiarity, even with scale and material altered. Other pieces, like “The Ever Expanse,” “The Hunt for Other Moons 3” and “Vine with Moons and Red Sun” combine themes from nature, astronomy and botany, respectively, with poetic restraint. “Mariner’s Compass” and “Octagon Web” are intriguing black light-box sculptures pierced with pinhole mandalas that sparkle seductively as the viewer moves around them, suggesting night skies dotted with gemstones. The exhibition title borrows from James Baldwin’s novel about love and death in bohemian art circles, but it aptly describes Wolff’s new aesthetic territory on its own terms.

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