Turbulence barely stays in its frame. Splash dances off the paper. So turgid and congested is Class IV Rapids, you wonder if a maelstrom might swallow all the tangled lines and dots.
These are only 3 out of 21 new drawings by Louise Grunewald on display at the Fort Lewis College Art Gallery. The drawings blaze with energy and contrast strikingly with a companion body of work 26 small-scale solar plate etchings. Shown together under the title Kinaesthetics, Grunewalds parallel explorations forcefully delve into emotion and experience in unusual ways.
Grunewald is an extraordinary artist who was trained in the fine arts, encountered the discipline of calligraphy and enjoyed a long and successful career as a calligrapher and greeting-card designer. For years, her daring and sophisticated style found its way into cards and posters and became part of the transformation of the industry. The same fresh and inventive approach is on display at FLC in these two new bodies of highly personal abstract work.
In the empire of calligraphy, lines are king. In time, Grunewald liberated lines to become a force for personal expression. That is fully evident in both the drawing aspect of the show, Landscape as (E)motion, and the 26 prints, based on individual letters of the alphabet.
Splash looks as if it began with a big gesture. Maybe all the drawings started with bold calligraphic strokes. Lighter riffs with smaller brushes or pencils develop and augment the initial idea.
Look for the title words embedded in every linear combustion. Its a bit of a treasure hunt, so dont miss the unexpected tour de force or the quiet whisper of a faint pencil edge suggesting deep space.
The composition of Turbulence explodes from left to right, but a tight graphite rectangle stabilizes the entire movement. Then you notice an odd little stroke of cadmium orange. It seems to spark the whole rollout in a whimsical manner.
Grunewald has chosen to work with a limited palette. Other self-imposed restrictions go deeper. In her artist statement she clarifies her guidelines: two kinds of ink, walnut and sumi; two colors, cadmium orange and manganese blue; a few pencils of varying hardness, standard size Rives BFK paper. These are the restrictions of an artist who understands that the tighter the confines, the more creative the challenge.
Her etching guidelines boiled down to: one letter per one small square; plus black, white and grey.
Grunewald concentrated on these two projects for three years, from professor Chad Colbys invitation to exhibit to the shows opening last week.
Publicly, and in her artists statement, Grunewald said she realized three years ago she was stuck. Her mother had died, and the grief process found the artist virtually frozen in place. One day, she said, she just started to draw random lines, loose turns and cascades of tumbling pencil dust.
Flow, which is mounted on the main wall along with seven other drawings, apparently unlocked some unhidden energy, she said. And as any viewer will surmise, that evocation of spinning and falling from left to right, suggests a tumultuous outpouring of emotion.
Another self-imposed restriction focused her attention on landscape as emotion. An avid hiker, cyclist and kayaker, Grunewald sketches when shes outdoors, and her love of nature inspires much of her work. Check out her work, and youll understand: Squall, Firestorm, Earthquake, Ridge Line, Transitions.
Most of the drawings transcend all her guidelines; a few are perhaps too literal Canyon comes to mind.
The etchings are as bold as the drawings are lyrical. The letters arent as easy to find as the embedded words, but they are there. Trust has a forceful crossed T. Enigma connects four slabs of black to make an E.
On Friday, at the opening of her solo exhibition, Grunewald said privately that she was done. She had finished what she set out to do.
I dont know whats next, but this is complete.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.