Amanda Valdez: Thick As Thieves at Denny Gallery September 10th – October 19th 2014
By Stephen Wilson
With one week left to see Amanda Valdez’s show, Thick As Thieves, at Denny Gallery in the Lower East Side, I can’t recommend it enough. The show is a breath of fresh air amidst the downtown gallery scene this fall. In contrast with the lowbrow, lowcraft that plagues the galleries nearby, Valdez has honed her craft and yet found room for experimentation as well.
I have always engaged Valdez’s work through a sense of design principles. The work fondly reminds me of exercises done in my first design classes in undergrad, where positive and negative space and the tension created were ground breaking ideas. Obviously, they still are when utilized by a master. Valdez’s work is also reminiscent of seminal works by the artist Ellsworth Kelly. However, where Kelly’s shapes are cold and solidly rooted in color field and minimalism, Valdez’s paintings are the contemporary response, letting feminism and craft show through the artist hand. In contrast, I love the lack of straight lines or edges in the works by Valdez.
Further, Valdez gives each piece personality, for lack of a better term. These paintings could all be portraits with the way each subject is given its own field to be examined within. There are no distractions, the subject in the foreground and a blank negative space in the background, usually raw canvas. Maybe that’s exactly what they are, portraits of thoughts or experiences.
Again, you need to see Amanda Valdez’s Thick As Thieves. Denny Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday and this is the last week to see the show.
Valdez was kind enough to talk openly about the work and answer a few of my questions. I will paste in some excerpts and thoughts below:
Stephen Wilson: What’s your process like?
Amanda Valdez: My process always begins with drawing. I often describe it as “thinking through my hands.”
SW: I’ve always felt like, though the images created are very solid and static, they also have quite a gestural quality. Can you talk a bit about that?
AV: In drawing, I am dislodging shapes, experiences, and deeper psychological reckonings with living, and it comes out in these bizarre shapes.
SW: Can you talk a little about your inspiration?
AV: This work came out of two very contrasting experiences: being in Omaha at Bemis and a research trip last fall to Istanbul. I came away from Istanbul with a palpable sense that we are all ruins; everything I make is a ruin; everything I will be is going to be a ruin… [further] I have always seen a strong connection between pre-modern American quilt design and Islamic patterning. So these two bodies of work were swimming in me while I made all this new work.
SW: Tell me about the residency at Bemis.
AV: All the work made in Thick as Thieves was completed at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha while on a three month residency this past Spring. It was special to be there and get so immersed and be so supported in my making… I was given a 2,300 sq. ft. space. Which is obscene and powerful. It was a dream in which I got really weird with my work… I was loving it so hard and it was loving me so hard.