Art review: ‘Meg Lipke: In the Making’, BCA Center | Visual arts | Seven days

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  • Courtesy of Sam Simon
  • “Inclined grid” by Meg Lipke

Appropriate warning to visitors to an exhibition in progress at the BCA Center would be “Do not squeeze art.” On the ground floor of the Burlington Gallery, “Meg lipke: In the Making “features the artist’s soft works cut from canvas and painted and stuffed with polyester padding. Eminently cuddly, they evoke shaped cushions or abstract plush toys. While most of Lipke’s works are hanging on the wall, two are freestanding (with the help of hidden frames), and one of them hangs on the wall and collapses to the floor, sprawling into the viewer’s space in a lumpy sag.

Fun and emotionally appealing, these pieces defy the restrictions of painting. Lipke is the daughter of Burlington artist Catherine Hall and the late professor of art history Bill Lipke at the University of Vermont. In a recent Zoom webinar hosted by Heather Ferrell, curator and director of exhibitions at BCA, the artist explained that after earning her Masters of Fine Arts at Cornell University, she was a “very traditional painter” for a period of time. decade. Then she “hit a wall,” she said, noting that the medium no longer turned her on.

“Sometimes I find the history of Western painting really overwhelming,” Lipke said at the conference.

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  • Courtesy of Sam Simon
  • “Loop Hoop”

His response was to shake up painting with craftsmanship. Inspired by her grandfather’s textile factory in England and her grandmother’s hobbyist artwork made from the mill’s yarn, as well as her mother’s multimedia practice, Lipke began to create works that reject the rigidity of painting. It is rigidity both in the literal sense – rectilinear canvases stretched over wood – and in the historical understanding of the art of the medium.

In “Black Cloud,” an early mural from 2014-2015, she replaced the traditional supports of a painting with polyester infill to create a uniformly thick three-inch piece in the shape of a cloud. On its flat, painting-like surface, Lipke created a white-on-black line and dot pattern using a tough wax over fabric dye.

Later murals show how Lipke moved away from the flat surface to adopt a padded limb appearance. In these “paintings,” as she calls them, the painting – sometimes a riot of splashed color, other times a minimalist composition of lines and symbols in a subdued palette – curves around somatic volumes.

For “Loop Hoop” (2016), Lipke created a 59-inch-high loop from the sleeves of her children’s thrown coats. “Portal” (2017) is a complex shape whose angles overlap around an oval hole. In her speech, Lipke explained that she based the shape on a container of cardboard Easter eggs that reminded her of her mill grandfather’s color sample cards.

In the webinar, Lipke cited another inspiration: “Hang Up” by Eva Hesse. The 1966 work, produced with Sol LeWitt, consists of an empty frame and an absurdly long hanging wire that winds in the viewer’s space. Lipke makes an equally ironic commentary on the history and act of painting with his work, but backwards, eliminating rather than exaggerating the supports of the paintings.

This lack of support structure makes “Slanting Grid”, created for the BCA exhibition, particularly breathtaking. The stuffed muslin grid is eight feet high and 18 feet wide. It hangs from loops on nails on the top; at least eight people were needed to set it up, according to Ferrell. Three triangular “feet” at the bottom only seem to support the weight of the work.

“Slanting Grid” is a literal slant on the act of painting, a send off of the traditional use of a grid to transfer an image onto a canvas. Lipke refers to the practice of preserving a piece of canvas stretched through a hole in the grid, but the boiling splashes of pink, red, and green acrylic paint contrast with what is generally a demanding process.

Ferrell emphasized the humor of the room’s triangular legs and moving tilt. “It’s heading for something else. It’s huge and unwieldy, but it’s about to run somewhere,” she said.

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  • Courtesy of Meg Lipke
  • “Dream of a painting”

Gravity is also a factor in Lipke’s work. As Vermont artist Julia Kunin pointed out in a catalog essay for Lipke’s 2016 exhibition at Freight + Volume in New York City, these curly sleeves are reminiscent of amputated limbs. Other works “refer to rescue and possible endangerment,” Kunin wrote.

A feminist common thread runs through the BCA show. “Parallel Bones” commemorates the broken elbow of Lipke’s daughter, 5, with sections of plaster and gauze wrapped around the padded forms. His joyfully painted “Mother Body” is a host of contradictions: with its vulva-shaped cutout in the center, it embraces a void and makes the inside of a woman’s body vulnerable through exposure.

Indeed, if the tradition of painting can be shaken up, it is perhaps by this kind of feminist – and feminine – practice.

Lipke’s favorite piece is the magnificent “Dream of a Painting,” which stands 84 inches tall, she noted in her webinar. (It’s also this reviewer’s favorite.) With its flowing form resembling a double frame that splits along the bottom, the artwork frames negative space in rich hues of red, orange, yellow and pink. . Such a lush gesture makes the void at its center all the more intriguing, like an invitation to an unknown future – both for an important emerging artist and her medium.