Cumberland Gallery | January 21 through March 4
by Sara Lee Burd
“I evaluate artwork on three key factors: technical skill, uniqueness of vision, and on a visceral level, honesty.”
—Carol Stein, Cumberland Gallery
“That reminds me of . . .” is a phrase Carol Gove hopes to hear at her exhibitions. Her art is often inspired by her own reflections, and yet the materials she includes are general enough to serve as reference points for all viewers. She encourages people to consider their own memories associated with objects like handwritten notes, botanical prints, blank sheet music, etc., but Gove layers paint and collage materials to obscure allusions. She leaves room for viewers to fill in the blanks with their own associations. Each viewer’s unique background and relationship with the materials, colors, textures, and lines shapes the significance of each artwork.
As an abstract expressionist artist, Gove seeks to elicit an immediate response. Her aesthetic follows in the lineage of the post-WWII New York artists such as Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning who sought to make a new art that’s both cerebral, emotional, and revealing of the artist’s true identity. The foundational artists were loosely connected, but the general thread that binds these artists is their commitment to gestural application of paint and mastery of formal elements used to create expressive compositions. Gove’s art is striking when viewed from far away, but considering her work up close also provides insight into her motivations and memories.
Process is key for abstract expressionist artists who relish time with their canvases as a means to explore their own relationship with the medium. For example, observing texture in her work reveals more than a haphazard decision; it is a sensitive presentation of how and why the art was made. Gove delights in the process of abstract expressionism, but also the meaning derived from assembling found objects into her work. Collage became part of the fine art vocabulary in the West during the early 20th century through Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. These artists began with the belief that combining painting and cut-out images allowed a new way of looking at both media, while also connecting with viewers through recognizable references to the everyday world.
The incorporation of collage elements allows Gove to create visual and expressive conversations that go beyond what she could make with just paint. She explains, “It’s exciting to me the immediacy collage can give you. You can be painting gesturally on a canvas, and deciding if you like the opacity of the paint or the drips or what your next choice will be, but when you find a piece of collage and adhere it to the painting, it changes it so much and immediately.” Many objects she incorporates into her work are personal items collected from friends, family members, and her own writing, but she also takes time to search at antique stores, online, and during her daily experiences to find the perfect material to communicate her vision. As Gove explains, “It’s that search with collage that I really love. If you go into my studio you can find boxes and boxes of source materials.”
Like many aspects of Gove’s art, the titles have multiple levels of meaning. Sometimes the title relates to how the artwork looks, but sometimes it is not apparent; it’s more of a personal caption. In Driven, for example, the painting feels intense. The gestural marks, dramatic colors, and the collage elements all pull the viewer’s attention to one place or another. As Grove notes, “The title relates to the motion your eye takes when moving through the piece or across the specific materials incorporated.”
Full Turn relates to the way the viewer’s eyes pass across the work, but it also provides a clue to this work’s personal significance. Gove presents a whirlwind of energy on the canvas. Curved lines are constructed with layers of cutout designs on paper that are connected with pencil marks, paint, and colors combined to create a spinning motion toward the center of the artwork. The formal elements of the composition suggest forces of nature and emotion that cause a complete revolution. The collaged images of a sideways train and scraps of handwritten notes suggest perpetual change, something Gove knows affects people throughout life.
The exhibition title, Carol Gove: Shared Differences, indicates the artist’s way of making art and the way viewers encounter her art. To Grove, “It relates to my use of materials that belonged to other people or other time periods, sharing their stories about their past and incorporating them in a different way, with my own voice and expression.”
This will be the first time Gove’s art will be featured in Nashville. A few small collage works were shown during Cumberland Gallery’s yearly Small Packages exhibition, but this is a new opportunity to see her large paintings. Gallery owner Carol Stein invited Gove to have an exhibition of her own at the gallery because as she says “her work is interesting and compelling. I evaluate artwork on three key factors: technical skill, uniqueness of vision, and on a visceral level, honesty.” That Gove’s art meets Stein’s stringent and particular qualifications means we can expect this show to provide a high-quality experience with contemporary abstract expressionist art.
Carol Gove: Shared Differences opens with a reception on January 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. The show remains on view through March 4. For more information, please visit www.cumberlandgallery.com.