What's Up At Boston-Area Galleries, April 16, 2013
By Cate McQuaid
Each of Ann Pibal’s succinct abstract paintings moves the eye nimbly over the picture plane. Sharp angles, crisp lines, sometimes tangy color values, and, in her most recent pieces, breathy brushwork all portray a quizzical intent. She’s like a physicist scribbling equations over a white board, puzzling out vital, small-scale unknowns.
But her methodical equations, in the acrylic-on-aluminum paintings now on view at Steven Zevitas Gallery, have a graceful simplicity you don’t see on many white boards: straight lines, intersections, and little trolley-like loafs of color that ride along the lines, adding up to a system of weights and balances.
Look at “EXTS,” in powdery gray-blue and red. The red lines could almost map a small downtown area, with five shooting off at clean angles from a central horizontal stripe. Some of them carry freight: lean black bars, flat sandwiches of beiges and browns. A fat, red bar streaks across the top. At the bottom, a second red bar doesn’t quite reach the right border. It aborts with an alarming ragged tear. Amid the rest of the perfectly straight edges here, it’s like a pimple on a model’s face.
Pibal’s paintings, like those of Turner Prize winner Tomma Abts, are resolutely controlled. At times, they feel arid and confined. So it’s daring when she introduces the painter’s hand, as she does in several works here. “THFR” features more straight lines, with several candy-colored ones peeling upward, splintering from their central arteries. Pibal sets them against a gray ground, painted in wide, lush strokes, tinged with color. That ground reads as a driving rain, and opens the painting to space, drama, and heart.
Works like these are no less precise, but the artist pits that exactness against something less about motion, and more about emotion — which may just blow these delicate constructions of lines and intersections right down.