ALISON HALL: Heirlooms
May 17 – Jul 6, 2019
Robischon Gallery is pleased to present its first exhibition of work by New York painter Alison Hall, featuring a series of intimate and large-scale abstracted works both patterned and poetic. “Heirlooms” offers the viewer a unique contemplative experience through Hall’s sensitive pared down palette of deep vivid blues and varied matte blacks; all meticulously manifested through a vocabulary of pigment saturated, oil-painted plaster with overlaid, graphite drawing on panel. At first glance, the work appears monochromatic and singularly minimalist – a rectangle of dense black or pure blue reminiscent of hard-edged Minimalism. Closer inspection reveals intricate, geometric graphite elements of pinpoint-size dots and concise vertical or horizontal lines all delicately incised into the responsive and subtly painted surface. Hall’s underlying grids echo the imperfection of Agnes Martin’s work – a source of inspiration for the artist – as Hall pursues her own desire for perfection while equally embracing the imperfect. This encompassing blend of opposites locates the engaged viewer in a suspended state of investigation; asking first, and perhaps last, the question of what is the nature of each mark and the meaning behind its recurrence? In the artist’s observation of recognized Minimalist or Pattern & Decoration artists, Hall’s unique work merges modern movements with her own fine hand giving form in an act of reverence and repetition as she simultaneously immerses herself in the spaces and decoration found in the churches in Italy and in particular the paintings of pre-Renaissance masters such as Giotto, Lorenzetti and Masolino da Panicale.
Hall’s paintings glisten as the light catches the graphite markings over the rich dark backgrounds like a metaphor for discovery through the illumination in the sacred sites in Italy which she regularly visits to seek inspiration. The artist states, “My source, the fundamental well, is Giotto’s Arena Chapel. Inside of this space his frescoes chronicle the life of the Virgin. The ceiling is covered in stars, a simple repeating pattern on a veil of blue that is transcendental. And the pavement (black and white), the place where you stand to look towards the heavens is covered in a pattern of interlocking diamonds. All of the patterns in my paintings derive from these two opposing spaces. The spaces have always been so separate in my mind, the above, a place of pure love (the pattern taken from the cloak of the Madonna) and the below, a place of earth-bound love (the black paintings). I’m beginning to feel the two spaces merge—that what is myth, so far away in the heavens, in the stars can manifest here, right in your presence.”
With respect and an expansive sense of reverence, Hall’s thoroughly modern work further speaks to a relatable connection to humanity’s unifying achievements in the form of such special places of worship and artworks – as each is made manifest through an accumulated effort by those dedicated to their individual craft. Hall states, “It makes a lot of sense that I would be in love with pattern. Generations of my family worked in factories and farms where pattern, repetition and ritual are at the core of these activities. One would think that in making paintings about pattern, there would be a defined beginning and end; an image that’s certain and void of breathing room. But, that’s wrong. I feel as if I never know the ending. The mistakes keep you from knowing the ending. Daily life and heartaches keep the endings elusive, as well. Agnes Martin talks about the empty mind that occurs through work. I’m not there yet, but that’s okay. These paintings are meditations on living. Nothing empty about that.”
Further entwining sacred imagery and daily life, Hall pays homage to the Madonna and to special mothers known to her in her life. Hall writes, “I became obsessed with two paintings on my travels; one, a small obscure fresco made by Masolino in the church of San Fortunato, in the small town of Todi. It’s always been a significant painting for me. I’m not religious, but if there were prayers for the religion of painting this would be my altar. A tender painting that feels minimal and primitive, but all knowing. Ancestral is my version of her. And the second painting, is the Death of the Virgin, by Giotto. The image has remained present on my worktable for several years. I’m sure these paintings were made about their mothers. Absolutely convinced.”
Titled for meaningful and important mother figures in her life, the paintings Lena, Doris, Delores, Brigitte and A Mother (of a mother, second); each reflect a unique individual, a “one-of-kind” to those who cherished her and of whose memory symbolizes - like the chapel or the historical artwork – a treasured “heirloom” to the next generation. With Hall’s exquisitely rendered work, the artist elaborates on Giotto’s declaration that, “Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbor.” For Alison Hall, each painting is that journey and object of devotion - a poetic pilgrimage both backward and forward unifying ideas across time.
Alison Hall obtained her BA from Hollins University and her MFA in painting from American University in Washington DC and Corciano, Italy. She was the recipient of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship in Drawing, the Bethesda Painting Award Fellowship, and the Spaceworks Studio Lottery. Hall has been the subject of exhibitions both internationally and nationally, and most recently mounted the exhibition "Invocation" at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. She has exhibited in Vienna, Austria; Bonn, Germany; the Hall Art Foundation | Schloss Derneburg Museum, Holle, Germany; Allentown Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; The Arts Club of Washington; the Washington Art Association; William King Museum, Abingdon, VA; the Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia; Wright State University, Dayton, OH; and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, among others. Her work has been exhibited alongside other esteemed artists such as: Polly Apfelbaum, Thomas Nozkowski, Tara Donovan, Michelle Grabner, Ellsworth Kelly, Sally Mann, Barbara Takenaga, Matt King, and James Siena.