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In Nancy Brooks Brody’s second solo exhibition at Virgil de Voldère Gallery, the grid becomes a woven net that loosely embraces a number of ideas and elicits responses through pensive, deliberate viewing. Without turning its back on nature or resisting development or play, as the grid is normally understood in art, this imagery helps to guide deeply felt aesthetic experiences and a sense of suspended time.
In the pair of works, Glory Hole (roygbiv) (2008) and Glory Hole (vibgyor) (2009), the grid feels as if it’s continuously shifting, pulsating, bending, wavering—even bubbling. With thin almost-white lines painted a quarter inch apart on a gray grisaille background, the paintings generate what could be called a “visual tremolo,” to borrow a phrase from the critic Annette Michelson. A patient viewer will begin seeing the colors of the spectrum, appearing from the gray mist like the rainbow in a rare Brocken specter. Such a perception isn’t entirely an illusion, for underneath those slate, chalkboard-like surfaces Brody has mixed a full range of colored pigment into the Venetian plaster; she’s also separated each color and blended them into measured portions of the white oil paint. There’s a furtive, poly-hued pleasure to be found there, just out of sight, allowing for an experience that is not only visual but also mystical, in the way that things not fully seen can allow for.
The linear graphite marks on Venetian plaster in Companion to Lucky (2007), a sister piece to Lucky Corners from her last show at the gallery, appear to spiral while still honoring the corners. Depending on which weight of pencil lead she uses for each section, the piece alternately recedes and emerges, creating an all-encompassing grid that is both delicate and refined and deeply satisfying in its balance of complexity and simplicity. The lines in all the grid-like works literally weave over and under each other, so that the continuity of the axes are repeatedly interrupted, dynamically deferring to and surmounting each other in their pathways across the surface.
In the thread drawing Land Line (2009), Brody uses a measurement system based on her telephone number to display an algorithmic pattern that is tightly structured but physically vibrant. While not on a grid like the other works, the pushing and pulling of the thread through tiny holes creates a unique rhythmic pulse that recalls the abstract tones of minimalist musical composition—not to mention the actual look of a written score. The forms in three smaller sewn works, stitched with grey and white thread, have similar shapes that are nearly mirror images of each other. The arcing interplay of positive and negative space suggests sky and ground and water, which suggest notions of solidity and airiness, and of two and three dimensions, that are an integral part of Brody’s art.
The works in the exhibition are obedient to form and practice, yet they abandon and betray it with subtlety and breath. The grid both coalesces and unravels. The stitches repeat and fill the page creating something altogether whole. Brody displays an ongoing dedication to patience and expansion that is revealed in these exquisite works.