Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thumbnail:Allison Renshaw

Painter Allison Renshaw's work was recently exhibited in the "Here Not There", exhibition at the MCASD in La Jolla, California. "Here Not There" was a mash up more than fifty San Diego Artists, emerging and submerging through the galleries, hallways, terraces,vestibules, nooks and crannies of San Diego's oldest Museum devoted to contemporary art.

American artist Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) famously quipped that “Sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting". Indeed as I was backing up to try to get a gander at one of Ms. Renshaw's large mixed media works, I just about knocked over one of Jeff Irwin's white ceramic animals on a pedestal! Her work needed much more viewing space than was provided, and Jeff's animals needed free range.

Sugar Kisses 48 x 96, 2010

No Painting when the surf's up.

On a recent visit to Alison's wonderland studio above Moonlight Beach in Encinitas,California we discussed the local arts scene, art-geek technical problems, surf culture, teaching and problems with painting

Playing e-mail tag, trying to set up a studio visit, one of her responses was that she was in the studio most Mondays and Wednesdays, unless the surf was up. I thought, now here is a woman with priorities! Being a devoted surfer, mother of a two year old, partner with her husband in a speculative
green housing business, AND painter is a full time balancing act.

All Action

Writing for Artnews in 1952, American arts critic Harold Rosenberg
coined the term "American Action Painters". What he recognized in the paintings being made at that time by artists Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Willem DeKooning, Philip Guston, Lee Krasner et all, was the "struggle" to make the work, and the painting was a residue of that action and struggle.

When I mentioned the affinity of her work to the action painter's, Allison remarked, that early in her master's work at The Maryland Institute College of Art, that her work was heavily influenced by the spattering, dripping and general lashing out at the canvas of the masters of splash and dash. She dropped that work, for a pursuit of a more "benign" abstraction. That body of work began to sell well. Looking at some pieces from that period, they are painterly, tasteful and unremarkable. Although she cannot recall exactly the "a-hah!" moment, that would lead to the current body of work, she does acknowledge the new urgency in the work, that was also in her previous explorations of action painting.

Cool Pop

What sets this work apart from the modernist AB EX painters, is the inclusion of popular culture in the form of collaged imagery. Cut from fashion, sports and surf magazines, and pasted onto the painted surface, these bits of our material culture, serve as anchor points for explosions of color washes, fluorescent spray dots, and anime-esque line , creating a "wipeout" of formal invention.

Viewing the larger works from a distance, space is compressed into a seemingly shallow wading pool of color, texture and form. It is not until you get close to the work, that individual areas begin to open up into vast oceans and endless panoramas, each area moving seamlessly from
one to another. One begins to understand these as contemporary seascape painting,albeit free from nostalgia or romanticism, and complete with a pollution of material detritus.

Can you say Pthalocyanine?

The color palette of Ms. Renshaw's works is decidedly acidic and cool. This is result of the use of a dominance of Pthalo blues and Pthalo greens. Discovered in the early twentieth century and commercially available as pigments in the late 1950's. these metallic complex pigments range in hue from green shade blues to red shade blue, and even some cool reds. The impact of this cool, industrial palette is significant, in that it helps disengage Ms.Renshaw's work from any sentimentality about painting, seascapes or the world we live in.

Odyssey. 48" x 96". 2010

Allison Renshaw is represented locally by Quint Contemporary Art
and more of her work may be seen at her website:


A Thumbnail C.V. for Allison Renshaw

City of Birth: La Mirada, California

Cities / Countries where you have lived: Fullerton, Malibu, Heidelberg Germany, Oakland, Baltimore, Snowmass Village, Cardiff, Leucadia

Education: BA Economics, Pepperdine University; MFA Maryland Institute College of Art

Years in San Diego: 14

Recent Projects / Exhibitions: “Plastic Fantastic,” solo exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art, “Here Not There,” Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, “Paper Works,” Eric Phleger Gallery

Current projects / Upcoming Exhibitions: Sierra Nevada College, exhibition and visiting artist in January 2011

Public / Private Collections: Irish Anglo Bank; Oceanside Museum of Art; Forward Ventures; Dolgen Ventures; Ballard, Spahr, Andrews, & Ingersoll, Piper/Marbury;

Awards / Honors: Nominated for the San Diego Art Prize 2010; Bemis Center Artist Residency, 2000; Anderson Ranch Arts Center Residency 2003, 2005, 2006.

Professional affiliations (Universities, Colleges, Museums, etc

Associate professor at MiraCosta College

Gallery Representation: Quint Contemporary Art in La Jolla

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