As Michelle Stuart’s art has edged into maturity, its embrace has become ever more generous. She once recorded mystically charged places by rubbing earth from their sites into large sheets of paper as she created quiet abstractions. Now her marriage of Earth Art and Minimalism has become a startling menage a trois including Romantic landscape painting. Results are expansive, quite lavishly beautiful works that are nourishing in their connections to nature and our experience of it.
Using wax as a binder, Stuart presses earth and other organic materials into 11-inch squares of muslin-backed rag paper and assembles them in vast gridded paintings measuring up to 8 by 16 feet. One elegant pewter-colored piece, made of wax and pine, has a fossil-like imprint of a pine bough in each square. “Record of Events” is a rust-colored piece composed of wax, earth and archeological shards. Two predominantly green paintings, called “Hortus Conclusus” and “Reef,” are rather like naturally carpeted forest grounds with flowers, leaves and shells pressed into encrusted surfaces.
Concurrently Nancy Riegelman shows 22 figurative abstractions that vaguely put one in mind of Jawlensky’s faces. Riegelman favors dingy, acrid hues, not his stained-glass color, and she takes more liberties with anatomy, but she seems to share the Expressionist’s interest in finding a simple, calligraphic language to depict human form and passion. Her small, worried works often refer to faces, with a strange centered form in a dark morass. “Two Kissing” and “Las Meninas,” larger works on whitish grounds, are comparatively lyrical and intriguingly suggestive of human drama. As a whole, though, this show begs for deferred judgment. Serious, hip, tormented and not a little muddled, Riegelman’s painting needs to loosen its shrouds and let us in on its secrets. (Saxon-Lee Gallery, 7525 Beverly Blvd., to Nov. 15.)