Configured Landscapes: Curated By Betty Brown

Deena Capparelli, Patsy Cox, Bibi Davidson, Merion Estes, Mark Steven Greenfield, Gegam Kacherian, Hung Viet Nguyen, & Hiroko Yoshimoto
September 15, 2021

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, 

but in having new eyes.    

~ Marcel Proust


LAUNCH Gallery presents Configured Landscapes, a diverse group of artists who look at the landscape in new, often surreal, ways. All of the artists in this exhibition re-shape the landscape in terms of color, shape and scale. Many of them also insert figures into their non-natural environments. As they do so, they invite viewers to re-consider both humans and their surroundings in caring and environmentally aware ways.


Deena Capparelli calls her paintings "pseudo-imaginary" landscapes. She juxtaposes "wild" plants with scenes of carefully manicured gardens to expose the malleability as well as the vulnerability of the plants in our natural environments. She also contrasts tightly limned realism with expressive abstraction to foreground the visual languages she employs.


Patsy Cox creates hundreds of small ceramic forms then assembles them into remarkable installations that refer to the dense, tight spread of urban spaces. Her current series incorporates human body parts--specifically mouths, teeth and tongues--to highlight the silent presence of people in places.


An image of the earth, its landscapes, directly affects people. The beauty of the earth creates enormous emotion, and through that emotion, you can transmit knowledge and raise consciousness. ~ Yann Arthus-Bertrand


Bibi Davidson has created a painted persona that she uses as a personal "stand-in" in the surreal environments and dreamlike events she depicts. Her human figures are often paired with plant forms, like the water-bound My Lost Tree that reminds us of ecological distress and loss.


Merion Estes uses paint and collage to explore environmental issues. Her depictions of gigantic flames, hungry ghosts, bats and skeletons (many taken from Japanese manuscript illustrations) combine to present ominous panoramas of destruction.


Mark Steven Greenfield positions an African American scarecrow in a broad cotton fields composed of his signature calligraphic marks. The lightning bolt-like strokes energize and elaborate the pictorial field. The artist derives such marks from the practice of automatism or free association, that is, of quieting the conscious mind and allowing impulses from the unconscious to surface.


The landscapes were in my arms as I did it. ~ Helen Frankenthaler


Gegam Kacherian's swirling, dynamic compositions pair naturalistic figures of people and animals with rectilinear buildings and explosive plant fragments. Like Capparelli, he contrasts fastidious representation with explosive abstraction, Doing so, he animates the surface and calls attention to the constructed nature of his work.


Hung Viet Nguyen layers thickly impasto'ed depictions of trees, lakes, and hills to create what he reverently calls "Sacred Landscapes." His encrusted colors are applied and carved with pictorial intensity that actually recalls the style of Vincent van Gogh.


Hiroko Yoshimoto works with poetic compositions of color, shape, and gesture to create elegant arrays of abstract natural forms. She shares the environmental concerns of several of the exhibition artists, as well as their goals of depicting and thereby valuing the natural world.


The soul of a landscape, the spirits of the elements, the genius of every place will be revealed to a loving view of nature.  ~ Karl Jaspers.  Using paint, ink, collage, and clay to generate realism, abstraction and expressionism, the eight artists of Configured Landscapes give us what Jaspers calls "the loving view of nature."


Betty Ann Brown, Ph.D., is an art historian, critic, and curator living in Pasadena, California. A professor of art history at California State University, Northridge since 1988, she has been active in art world politics and served as President of the Board for both the Los Angeles Woman’s Building and the Southern California Women’s Cauc.  us for Art. Among the many exhibitions she has curated are retrospectives for Hans Burkhardt, Roland Reiss, Linda Vallejo, and John M. White. Her most recent exhibition--Graphic Subversion: Mark Steven Greenfield and Mark Dean Veca--opened just before the "shelter-in-place" order of 2020. Among her recent books is Afternoons with June, Stories of June Wayne's Art & Life (Midmarch Arts Press, 2012). 


  The landscape affects the human psyche--the soul, the body, and the innermost contemplations--like music. Every time you feel nature deeper, you resonate better with her--finding new elements of balance and freedom. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis