Review: Marfa Intrigue at Octavia Art Gallery_lowres


In 1979, the great minimalist sculptor Donald Judd bought a derelict army base near Marfa, Texas, so he would have space for his work. After his death, Marfa became an unlikely art community despite its remote desert location. Minimalist art can be elusive — I mostly ignored it until I worked at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a fascinating city so crowded, noisy and convoluted that it made me crave space and simplicity. I suddenly came to appreciate minimalist art. I also suspected that Judd, who grew up in a small town in Missouri, came to crave space and simplicity so much that it influenced both his art and his move from New York to the desolation of Marfa.

  His aesthetic descendants there reflect a related reductive approach that is somewhat more complex or even decorous. Michael Phelan's paintings hint at Frank Stella's stark 1960s striped canvases that sometimes recalled Judd in two dimensions, but Phelan's provide a contrasting, origami-like twist. Martha Hughes' colorful compositions explore how geometric modern designs transform products into color-coded alternate realities that she distills into intriguing self-contained abstractions. Charles Mary Kubricht's shadowy black, white and gray graphics suggest geometric realms where distant asteroids and subatomic particles beam their mysterious influences almost invisibly into everyday life. Anne Marie Nafziger's sensuously loopy paintings reduce landscapes to lush, opulently abstract brushstrokes that evoke how a delirious Franz Kline might have interpreted Monet's garden — a display of audacity that might have contributed to her election as mayor of Marfa. Prolific artist Sam Schonzeit grew up near Judd's New York studio and says Marfa reminds him of Soho in the 1970s, a remark that suggests a boundless imagination. Leslie Wilkes' colorful paintings embody a schematic psychedelic minimalism in canvases such as P16.02 (pictured). Her works evoke the meditative realms of inner space while hinting that light itself might be a form of intelligent life emanating from the vast depths of the universe.