There is nothing subtle about John Pearson’s compilation-driven works now on display at The Akron Art Museum. Upon first analysis of his work, and as others have noted similarly, there is a geometric and pattering quality to his works that isn’t driven by trickery so much as creating a basic level of spatial tension between shapes and their placements in a given piece. But as Pearson summarized in his gallery talk for the exhibit, small palettes of color is just as important if not more so in the development of his work.
Primarily a mix of painting, prints, and line drawings, the pieces in this exhibit are plucked from a timeline that spans from some of Pearson’s earliest work to the most recent. The earlier pieces are as large in their collections of repeated textures and limited palettes as they are still and contemplative. There is the semblance of an abstract expressionist chaos (subtle or not depending on the individual work) but only in so far as the word/definition of “chaos” is actually the frantic state it describes.
The work dating closer to present day in the collection’s timeline reflects a similar concern for repetition and limitation in the creation of space. However, from what we are presented in Pearson’s exhibition, the later works’ repetitive structures and cataloging of color-compilations manifest over the span of multiple pieces rather than within the assemblage of an individual, large artwork. Repetition in these works occurs within certain degrees of formal constraint in a way that is analogous to a poet writing a series of sestinas that will ultimately look reasonably like each other in shape but differ wildly with changing selections of end-words (for Pearson these end-words are his color selections). As Pearson noted in his gallery lecture, he is very much invested in creating a work from a few found colors that lay as they have been harvested: without alteration of a given color’s identity. Space, for these selections of Pearson’s work, is not created in the transformation of colors or shapes but rather in how they can be assembled to lay with one another. Still, and questionable.
Just like Pearson, who during the exhibit’s opening Q&A seemed to shy away from assertive critical responses, the works in this exhibit have a sparseness. They seem to be highly emblematic of the artist who, in talking about his work, could clearly be pinned as an educator/motivator. “Intuitive Structures” presents an artist who enjoys threshing things out but steers more toward a space of questions rather than assertions.
“Intuitive Sturctures” runs until February 8, 2015, at the Akron Art Museum.