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Steven Husby at Peregrine Program

by Shannon Schmidt

Steven Husby

Time and space always alter one’s perspective, vantage point and, dare I say, painting.  All throughout the relatively new exhibition space at PeregrineProgram, austere, geometric paintings hang on walls of white.  The acrylic color is flat; yet laid out side by side, prisms of value create depth in space.  From black to shades of blue and then white, the paintings create a systematic and precise composition of vanishing points within a spectrum of color.

we speak the way we breathe, an exhibition by Steven Husby, simultaneously invokes clarity and a negation of the monumental.  The title, taken from the Fugazi song “Promises,” underlines Husby’s intentions and philosophical concerns.  In this systematic undertaking, the artist combines the everyday routine of labor with aspirations toward consilience.  In speaking with Steven Husby, he points back toward the origins of the work by explaining his interest in rules, choppy segments of unmixed color, music and physics.

Although Husby keeps the paintings untitled, one painting that appears as a double blue mountain (portrayed on the exhibition’s postcard), simultaneously suggests prismatic effects, a lighthouse casting light upon the ground, the surface of water, and a color value assignment.  By doubling the image, the vanishing points of the horizon line fade into a constructed monument that can be split, doubled, quadrupled—a systematic desire manipulated by the artist: a failed utopian of line and color.

Intentionally creating a frame of white for the majority of the paintings, Husby establishes an object quality and a clear designation of the painted area.  As part of the composition, the framing device and the color palette produce a tension between the history of landscape painting, Post-minimalism and contemporary geometric abstractions.  Yet, alongside any art historical content, the influence of music composition: edits, cuts and visual rhythms factor heavily into the tempo of the paintings. The triangular segments of color are sectioned off with a crisp line that meets the edge of the next value, giving the paintings their rhythmic quality as the range of color steps in stages across a scale, from dark to light.  This treatment of color ticks across the canvas in deliberate registers, allowing Husby’s interest in a meticulous process to radiate out. The effect creates both a false perspective and the illusion of depth on the flat canvas by using a basic structure of line and color techniques.  Therefore, within this system and structure of creating the paintings, lies the connection between the formal and conceptual concerns of the artist.  These exacting formal techniques link process and concept, while the artist’s interest in the implication of color (gender in terms of blue and pink), value, duality and repetition become central to his focus.  Regarding the rigorous process, Husby assures me at some point that all of the paintings could be made again with precision—in a different space of time.

PeregrineProgram – 500 W. Cermak Road #727. we speak the way we breathe will run from March 5 – April 2, 2010