Laura Watt's exhibit of obsessively patterned oil paintings and drawings is exquisite. Watt is a colorist who creates extremely detailed and meticulous works. She has taken '70s Op Art to a higher plane; it's just as intense, but her palette is toned down and her work shows the artist's hand.
Working within the tradition of abstraction, Watt has developed her own unique vocabulary. There is a subtle evolution in the show from the earliest painting in 2004 to the 2009 pieces. An early square painting titled "50402" dazzles in its tight highly defined geometric construction; one is mesmerized studying each detailed segment of the painting. Yet as Watt moves on she loosens up (a bit). The painting "Inside the Rabbits Ear" still has the patterning, but it is flowing more, volumes of color are allowed, the grid is broken, and space is let in. "Primary Forms Blue" breaks out even more; mistakes and deviations are permitted.
The most recent paintings -- "The Mandala Series" -- are in the same vein, but introduce a new circular pattern which all in this series follow. Watt sees her painstaking process of working as a spiritual meditation, and the paintings themselves -- as the mandala title suggests -- could readily be objects to aid meditation. The works on paper further explore the "Mandala" theme and complement the paintings.
One can trance many ancient influences in this work, from Arabic tiles to Amish quilts, yet although Watt's work is backed up by design and art history, her abstractions have a contemporary edge that gives them relevance today. Watt is an excellent craftsman who presents challenging and enthralling work. - Margaret Roleke
McKenzie Fine Art
511 West 25th Street, No. 208, New York, NY. Now through December 19th.
Ms. Roleke is an artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the New York Tri-State region; she is also an independent curator.