When you wander through the show of acrylic constructions by artist Megan Madzoeff at the Offramp Gallery in Pasadena, don't be surprised if the nonrepresentational images bring to mind impressions of music. Strictly speaking, it's not what she has in mind, but the 38-year-old Madzoeff understands the reaction.
She's come up with something novel: two-dimensional acrylic shapes of varying colors, viscosities and textures that are poured flat onto polyester film. Madzoeff then selects areas that she likes and cuts them into her chosen, organic shapes. Then she arranges them in combination with other color field forms. The results are colorful configurations that seem to be in continual flux — morphing into something new and unimagined.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Madzoeff's "H2O" series is the painterly quality that can occur from her poured applications. Aside from the elusive contours of the watery shapes, the colors can shimmer and feather to thin transparencies.
An example of her methodology is the juxtaposition of Prussian blue slabs that intertwine dysentery greens in "Frail and Bedazzled #3." They create a hide-and-seek rhythm, anchored by red-brown accents and the white negative shapes. The title, a Smashing Pumpkins recording, is no homage. Though Madzoeff fabricated these pieces to selected music, she considers the sounds as part of the materials for this series.
"It's the first time I've ever done my work to a proscribed process," she says, on a break from her job in West Hollywood. "I chose music, did my pours, then collaged pieces together. Spontaneity is always part of my work but adding the music gave it a different dimension. Each piece in this series comes from the intuitive, but adding the structure of the process took a lot of that decision-making off of my shoulders."
Creative inspiration can come from anywhere but this particular series was the result of a book. "I was moving last December," Madzoeff recounts, "and I came across this book that had been given to me but I'd never looked at it. It's called 'The Hidden Messages in Water' and it's about how outside influences can change something that's as sensitive and fluid as water. Well, I thought about how that might play out when I applied it to my own work."
She's always been passionate about music, though Madzoeff doesn't play an instrument. "When I thought about how the book is based on studies of water, I wondered how the theory might operate when applied to different pieces of music: different music should produce different results."
There's nothing new about paint applied by means other than brushes. The renowned painter Helen Frankenthaler, for one, has been a seminal source for Madzoeff. "Pouring paint has always been the way I work," she points out. "But I immediately recognized Frankenthaler's importance when I first saw her work; she's always been a big inspiration to me, and a link to that pouring process."
Madzoeff has her personal standards and reveals that not every piece comes along smoothly, or even lives to see the light of day. "Sometimes," she admits, "I'll get so far into a painting before I realize that it's just not right. When I look at my work I ask myself: Is it better, worse or the same? It has to be better. That guide has served me well."
What is it that Madzoeff is after in the "H2O" series? "I'm looking for that moment when you see something that you didn't know existed before. What I'm trying to do is find two different areas coming together that make me think: 'Look at that! I could never come up with that if I'd been trying for it.'"