Amy Ellingson | Firmament
Jul 17 – Sep 19, 2020
Mid-13th C., from Old French firmament or directly from Latin firmamentum "firmament," literally "a support, a strengthening," from firmus "strong, steadfast, enduring" (from suffixed form of PIE root *dher- "to hold firmly, support" ). Used in Late Latin in the Vulgate to translate Greek stereoma "firm or solid structure," which translated Hebrew raqia, a word used of both the vault of the sky and the floor of the earth in the Old Testament, probably literally "expanse," from raqa "to spread out," but in Syriac meaning "to make firm or solid," hence the erroneous translation. Related: Firmamental.
In her second Robischon Gallery solo exhibition, entitled “Firmament,” New Mexico artist Amy Ellingson offers a diverse body of work born from the artist’s singular, meticulously created cosmologic vocabulary with its quality of space, time and opportunity for discovery. Ellingson’s remarkable large and medium-scale oil and encaustic paintings on panel, intricate large-scale graphite drawings as well as compelling cast bronze sculptures on custom-built tables directly relate to the artist’s massive painting, the eight-paneled Apparent Reflectional Symmetry, Parts I and II on the gallery’s main wall. Ellingson’s multi-process conceptual vision is best conveyed in the artist’s own words, “I am interested in providing an opportunity for optical, perceptual and tactile experiences, which I believe can connect us to our deepest, purest selves. We have become more attuned to flat images (via advertising, the media and digital technology) than we are to objects. Paintings, although ‘flat,’ are objects, full of dimensional and textural information that reveals not only imagery, but also the intricacies of materiality and the complex methodologies of making. While my work is deeply rooted in the history of painting and, most particularly, the history of abstraction, it is also an attempt to confront the enormity of contemporary virtual experience. I’ve designed my work on the computer for thirty years, and it is the translation from the ‘virtual’ to the ‘real’ that is paramount. Physicality, labor, attention, devotion and process are important to me, as is the transcendent manifestation of ‘image’ into ‘object.’”
Ellingson continues, “The works in “Firmament” were designed on the computer and then translated into physical objects. All of my work is closely interrelated. Using ephemeral, computer-generated images exclusively as my source material, I employ a signature vernacular of marks that are predetermined through a process of digital manipulation. The resulting gestures are personal, yet neutral, created by my formal decisions as interpreted by the algorithms of computer graphics programs. I utilize repetition and variation within a language of pure abstraction, using the computer to appropriate and repurpose aspects of my work. I am interested in the experience of translating digital imagery into substantive objects via traditional, hands-on media and processes. The various manifestations of the data, in a range of mediums, are meant to suggest the trickle-down and omnipresent effects of digital information, degrading, mutating and reiterating over time.”
Ellingson’s “Firmament” exhibition is an encompassing investigation outlined by the depth of meaning she delves from the word alone. The artist views all three series as interconnected, where each exhibited artwork operates within the gallery to support the inherent expansiveness of Apparent Reflectional Symmetry, Parts I and II. From the large-scale drawings featuring four-way symmetrical renderings of the diptych’s individual panels, to the smaller paintings that share a combination of symmetrical/asymmetrical balance, to the unique bronze sculptures, the artist’s individual marks are further supported by their relationship to the next element as they coalesce into the whole. For Ellingson, the sculptures hold “the seeds that contain all of the data for the other works, or contrarily, as ‘meteoric’ forms that represent the paintings as compressed, compacted objects.” Ellingson’s work is awe-inspiring in magnitude when fully considered from the vantage of the artist’s keen intellect and mesmerizing mark-making. In the end, it is the experience of wonder that transports the artist’s seemingly limitless vision into form.
Amy Ellingson received her B.A. from Scripps College in Claremont, CA and M.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts. Her paintings have been exhibited in Japan and widely exhibited nationally, from New York, to Colorado to California. She is the recipient of the Fleishhacker Foundation Eureka Fellowship and the Artadia Grant to Individual Artists and has been awarded fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. Her work is included in the permanent collections of The Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, San Francisco, CA, The Paul Allen Collection, Seattle, WA, Bank of America, Charlotte, NC, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA, City and County of San Francisco, CA, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Monterey, CA, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, Hewlett-Packard Corporation, Palo Alto, CA, Monterey Museum of Art, Monterey, CA, Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, Twitter, Inc., San Francisco, CA, United States Embassy, Algeria, United States Embassy, Tunisia, and the United States Department of State, Washington DC. Notable group exhibitions include Alcoves #3 at the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; Bay Area Now 3 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Neo Mod: Recent Northern California Abstraction at the Crocker Art Museum; and Nineteen Going on Twenty: Recent Acquisitions from the Collection at The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu. Ellingson’s public commission entitled Untitled (Large Variation), is permanently on view in Terminal 3 at San Francisco International Airport. Concurrently, Ellingson’s work was recently featured in group exhibitions at Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University in New Orleans, LA and Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, CA.