Abstraction takes on fresh dimensions in Haven's 'Iampayingattention'
by Nate Lippens
(from Seattle P-I June 28, 2007)
In her latest show, "Iampayingattention," Victoria Haven continues to emancipate line from flatness, gesture from surface, and to play with the interval between two and three dimensions. As the title suggests, it's a sly and subtle show that demands careful examination and involves intuition and initiative.
Haven started out as a painter, but 10 years ago she threw out her brushes and headed to graduate school, attending Goldsmith College. She returned with a renewed perspective and made a seemingly radical departure, creating sculptures from rubber bands and nails, abstract drawings of obsessive lines, and cut paper pinned to walls with gaps where shadows became elements of the work.
All were chimerical experiments in abstraction that relied as much on absence and shadow as they did on line. She still considered herself a painter, albeit one who used pen and ink with Mylar and vinyl on paper to create the effects of space.
For her latest show, she creates pen-and-ink drawings that depart from her references to built space and geography. Instead, she further explores abstraction, arriving at an autonomy that feels free and infinite. There is one referential nod in "Iampayingattention": Bruce Naumen's infamous piece that included the declarative "Pay Attention," followed by an Oedipal exclamation. Haven's homage is one elegantly continuous cursive line. Cast in steel and coated in white, it sticks out from the wall an inch, creating a shadow. It's a quiet three-dimensional command.
It's also a call and response that frames the rest of the show. "Impayingattention" is about pushing and pulling the picture point around and, subsequently, the viewers' gaze. Her dashes and obsessive mark-making are the action, capturing stop-time moments and fleeting sensations. Many of the drawings are explosive with outward motion and shifts of perspective reminiscent of the portals and rabbit holes in previous shows. Here, they suggest crystal growth, energy fields and astronomical mappings, but the realm is pure abstraction. The results are dazzling and seductive.
Haven is enormously inventive within the rigorous parameters she devises for herself. What's more, these works are anything but austere. Seldom do her drawings seem schematic or like exercises; largely, one feels, because her process is intuitive rather than programmatic. She punches up her pale palette with pastels in "The Song Remains the Same" (2006) and a black web in "Black to Black" (2006) that suggests Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Nets." Two drawings are on graphite paper and more vibrant color pops up in others. "Strobe" (2006) resembles the multicolored lines of her geographic work, but it proliferates into a helix shape rather than a discernible landscape.
The latest drawings are on gampi paper, which has its own particular materiality -- both incredibly delicate and strangely malleable. In the three largest works, the ink pulled the paper creating ripples and puckers that add to the atmospheric space of the drawings. They echo the poetic Bauhaus geometry of Josef Albers and Paul Klee, the humanist grids of Agnes Martin, and the Op insinuations of Jesus-Rafael Soto.
While none of the works on paper flirts with three-dimensionality in the way her "Wonderland" pieces did, they show the artist aching to break into space. The abstraction that has galvanized her over the past 10 years is proliferating in a way that seems to beg for off-the-wall embodiments. Haven seems on the cusp of another artistic leap. No matter what her next move is, I am paying attention.