Simona Prives, Black Matter, 2018, Sumi ink, monotype and collage with xerox transfer and watercolor, 70 x 44 inches


Simona Prives creates images that describe shifting, changing imaginary worlds inhabited by human beings and all their detritus. From a distance, one is at first drawn in by the sweeping brush strokes that make up the “stuff” of these compositions. On closer viewing, we see all order of human activity embedded in the abstracted landscapes. Cities are under construction, or crumbling, territory is being colonized as acrobats catapult themselves into oblivion. Prives says that her work is about “locating ourselves in the built and natural environments at this particular moment in history”.

Prives’ current solo show curated by Grace Noh at John Doe Gallery is called “Time Waves”. The exhibition includes projected animations, and works on paper made with Sumi ink, monotypes, xerox transfer, and collage, both physical and digital.

One of the largest of her works on paper (four by six feet) is Black Matter. The aspect of scale and the yin yang of positive and negative space are used to powerful effect here, in terms of both form and content. Each passage flows seamlessly from dark into light, from being into nothingness, from clustered marks and color stains into the emptiness of white paper. Voluminous, layered washes of pigment define the space and contrast with hairline networks of feathery roots, topographic maps, architectural diagrams and patterned geologic forms, the details of which are both obsessively rendered and captivatingly seductive. There is a sense of change and motion in this work that one rarely sees in a still image. And there is an added element of intrigue in discovering each of the fragments of representation, which give us a deeper entry into the pictorial space.

Simona Prives, Black Matter (Detail)

You would need to enroll as her student at Parsons or NYU to get an inkling of the multi-step processes of drawing, painting, printmaking and photography that encompass Prives’ art practice and the sophisticated digital skills needed to create her mixed media prints and animations. Prives studied printmaking in the MFA program at Pratt, but it was through collage that her work began to come together. The process of decomposition and reconstruction lent itself perfectly to her surrealist inclinations. She related to the brand of surrealism that sprang out of Dadaist practices, which access subconscious thinking by taking images and objects out of context to create new meanings. The alchemy of using a fragment of a scan of parsley to represent a forest was a revelation.

Simona Prives, Black Matter (Detail)

Her references for Black Matter and many of the other works on paper in the show, come from her studies of Chinese scroll painting. Prives began experimenting with combining drawings and prints with watercolor and ink, mining their potential for establishing atmospheric perspective out of which her imagery could spring. Rejecting the golden mean as a given format, she opts for the elongated length of those famous scrolls, which artfully sets the stage for drama, slowing the reading of the work from one side to the other.

“Time Waves” also includes animations of her collages, which was a natural next step in the evolution of the work. Watercolor and ink, again, provide the fertile ground that anchors the cycle of formation and decay and, in this case, actual motion, with video capture of ink bleeding onto the page. The sound design, a collaboration with composer Ross Williams, accompanies each pulse of ink with a clashing rush of natural noises and the din of humanity, literally making its mark upon the land. It mirrors the ebb and flow of images and, together, their rhythms call attention to our own, from small bodily repetitions, to tides, and planetary patterns.

Wendy Letven, Interdimensionality Triptych, 2018, Acrylic on panel, 30 x72 inches

Wendy Letven is a painter/sculptor who also teaches at Parsons School of Design. Wendy’s suspended public sculpture “Drawing the Invisible”, is being exhibited through January, 2019, at The Flatiron Prow Artspace at 175 5th Avenue in New York City.

“Time Waves”, curated by Grace Noh, is showing at John Doe Gallery (112  Waterbury St) through December 23. Black Matter will also be on view at Art On Paper with Heather Gaudio Fine Art.