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Karl Pace’s circular logic
Jackson Hole, Wyo.-As the evening sinks into a lull, a tremendous quiet space opens up to simultaneously widen and pinpoint all the fragmented ramblings in my mind. It is my brain trying to seize control, reclaim clean territory within my mind and produces a struggle to be quiet and integrated. This ephemeral and invisible space is vast and undulates on whims. Jumping from topic to topic the space widens and contracts. It is a tumbling cosmos where I try to rationally choreograph all the memories and hopes, experiences and expectations – the irrational artistry of the mind – into a web.
As the day ends and the peaceful winterhood exudes a crisp insulation, it’s this quiet ether that ushers in chaos. Resting at my feet, the chest of my beautiful velveteen panther rises and falls into a soft melody that makes my bed warmer and my mind relax. It is now I conjure up the soft and ordered chaos of a Karl Pace drawing. I met Pace in Jackson in 2009 at his booth in the Summer Art Fair. I have since kept up with the Utah artist and his prolific and varied practice.
Pace’s works on paper will deceive you with their simplicity. At first glance many seem to be a study of geometry but his surfaces are sensuous and have the variance and appeal of crushed velvet. In “Circular Logic,” the lightly smudged charcoal circles repetitiously stack up the paper’s vertical axis and are split down the middle by thinner, colored circles. The intersection of circles warrants a green, lively tube that flattens out into a spear if you look at the drawing one way and opens into an expansive gorge if you look at it another. This is very much in the way of ’60s “Op” painting that relied on design and color theory to play with the mind’s perception of space.
Pace’s drawing has earth and hand to it, which reveal the labor behind the marks unlike stringently designed Op paintings. I am reminded of the mechanical and soft qualities of Da Vinci’s sketches – the backgrounds engrained with shadows of applied lines. I can see the transparency and opaque play of white oil pastel vying for stability within the frame of “Circular Logic.” These marks are evidence of the mind at work, the body circulating the energy of thought into material.
The interplay of line, texture, negative and positive space, is also played out in “Binary Star.” Two large circles, each laced with minute criss-crossing lines, one in royal blue etchings and one black, intermesh. Both spheres open up on the expanse of a white background and have contained depth, like a Petri dish. The frenetic cosmos of the mind and heart meet in the middle creating plush, moss green. Mildly transparent but some how solid and flat compared to its outer components, the center fragment is still, and pulses rather than vibrates. This spot is a place of creation, unfettered before the bang of inspiration vigorously spills into reality. Both of these drawings are articulations of chaos and order from the mind and heart, space and land, viscera and energy.
As I pull myself out of the absorbing realm of these drawings, I can’t stop thinking about the game pick-up sticks. Pick-up sticks are aggressively dropped onto the floor. Red, blue, yellow and green, it begins so plainly. This process seems relevant to Pace’s meticulous and yet wildly free markings. A targeted mess of simplicity and the players carefully abstract their colors. I am forever playing pick-up sticks inside my head. Only, the colors never really separate and if by chance they do, they are integrated into a larger, more complex map of tertiary colors and numbers – quantifications of emotions, friendships, and words read, thoughts remembered, history absorbed.
The sticks accumulate and are dropped again. Now while I write, my shiny black dog shakes and spasms her way through the ether. Her body flexing the actions in her mind, her muffled voice an unsuppressed artifact of a game of pick-up sticks.