In her late summer, early fall exhibition at the Hess Gallery at Pine Manor College, Adria Arch explores the next stage of her painting evolution.
It’s what she describes as hybrid painting, referencing a January 2018 article by Jason Stopa in the online publication “Hyperallergic,” where he stated: “This very approach might have something to do with the influence of performance invading the space of painting, in which mark-making is liberated from the traditional formal unity that previous paintings occupy … the funky, shaped, theatrical, baroque canvases of Elizabeth Murray and Frank Stella in the 1980s … grappled with the architectural space of the gallery and the conventions of a rectangular support, merging both geometric and expressive tendencies into a multi-planar site.”
This is hybrid painting defined, but Arch amplifies the particulars to suit her art, adding aspects of her world to this definition. In hers, kinesthetic experiences — dance-like movements, twists and turns, spins, leaps — also inform her work. She sees her compositions as expressing a physical experience of the world, reaching into the realm of theater and child’s play.
In her studio in Newton, Massachusetts, several weeks before the Hess Gallery opening, Arch and I discussed her exhibit. Undeterred by the August heat and humidity, the artist spoke in animated and engaging terms about her commitment to the new direction of her work.
“I started working in this way because I wanted people to be drawn into my work in a physical way,” she explained. “I wanted people to have a more active, participatory experience with my paintings, not just look, and then walk to the next one. That bores me now. Part of what we try to do as artists is surprise ourselves constantly in the studio. Where can I take this? What do I want from this experience? I realized that I was craving something more 3-D.”
On a trip to the Southwest, Arch experienced a new art, cultural and entertainment resource that confirmed her need to take her work to a more tactile, dimensional, participatory level. She saw it is an experience that crossed high art and low art.
“I went to this place called Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. It’s this exciting new direction led by a group of young artists who got together, and with the help of a private donor, bought an empty bowling alley. They filled it with these participatory experiences for people to walk through. There are sculpture, light installations and video, sound and movement, some painting on the wall, but it was so active.