Meg Cranston: A Line Has Two Sides
313 N Fairfax Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90036
Anna Meliksetian and Michael Briggs are pleased to present A Line Has Two Sides, new work by Los Angeles-based artist Meg Cranston. Cranston has a broad artistic practice which includes painting, sculpture, performance and video, writing and lecturing along with public and artist curatorial projects. The new exhibition continues Cranston’s ongoing interest in themes of personal identity, the subjective and their relationship to the broader culture by way of color theory, design, art history, shared cultural references and formal experimentation. Cranston’s work is characterized by its playfulness and wit, an entrance into her explorations into the nature of image making and the role the artist plays in our society.
The exhibition features a new series of abstract Palette Paintings, a sculpture and a group of paintings on paper,
Cranston discusses the sculpture and the paintings in her owns words:
Often in my work, I consider fundamental principles in art and relate them to concepts or conditions outside of art. For example, I have used the basic color harmonies (complimentary, split complimentary, triadic, etc.) to consider if those harmonies are natural, having to do with the wavelengths of the spectrum human beings can see, cultural, or some combination of both. In this exhibition, I am using familiar principles and methods in art to create metaphors that extend possibly beyond art.
There are two works in the exhibition with the title A Line Has Two Sides. One is a painting from 2022, and the other is a sculpture I made specifically for the exhibition. For the sculpture, I painted a horizon line on each of the walls of one of the gallery spaces at different heights. Each line divides the wall, and the lines together compose the room. The dimension of the lines in the space creates the scale of the work. If the work were done in another space, but the size of the lines remained the same, the scale would change. To keep the scale the same, I would have to change the dimension of the line. Because the lines are hand painted, they can’t be the same on both sides, so I hope people look at that and be interested in the variation as they walk along and follow the lines.
Artists are taught lines have two sides and two ends. Depending on the width of the line, the difference between the sides is evident. Lines that are relatively even on both sides create one effect. Uneven lines create another. We can perceive that difference even if we can’t consciously do so.
A skilled house painter, for example, knows the point where the wall meets the ceiling is rarely perfectly straight, so they will create a “meeting point” line by hand with a brush. With a carefully but unevenly hand-drawn line, the color of the wall and the ceiling meet more “naturally” and to our eyes more beautifully. Conversely, artists might tape off lines in their paintings to create a machine-made effect they could not achieve only with a brush.
Agnes Martin would create lines in her work six or more feet long. At a distance, they appear to be straight and even (as if drawn by a machine or with a giant ruler), but as one gets closer to the works, it’s obvious, they are not precisely straight or even and often are not one line but a series of lines drawn in succession. They match but not perfectly. That slight variation gives the work its energy and complexity and makes us understand why she would call a work that appears only to be straight lines on a canvas, Far Away Love or Friendship.
Historically, the lines or frontiers between groups of people were drawn through contact, conflict, and natural features. On the modern world map, however, we see a fair number of straight border lines as if they were drawn with a ruler and the heavy hand of politics. The overlay of the political map onto the topographical one makes sense only through the lens of politics.
The Palette Paintings
In 2021 I began mixing my paints on neutral gray paper. I started using neutral gray rather than white because it allowed me to see the color and its value more accurately. I liked the change so well I started keeping my palettes and pinning them to the wall of my studio. As time passed, I couldn’t say which I liked better, the palette or the finished painting, and I was pretty sure they were nearly the same, so I began to make what I call palette paintings – paintings made the same way I create my palettes.
Like every artist, you can see my aesthetic – my color and compositional preferences in the palettes. I am not consciously making compositions on the palettes, but compositions emerge nevertheless. Usually, palettes are not considered compositions, but if you look at the palettes of the Impressionists, you can easily see that they are often compositions if preliminary ones.
Contemporary painters, because many paint such large works, don’t use traditional small palettes, so the history of the palette to finished work isn’t easy to track, but I look for them in films of videos of contemporary artists. In a video about Kerry James Marshall, I saw he had palettes on the pages of telephone books and in a kind of cupcake tray and on a traditional taboret. Each of those ways tells me about his thoughts about color and composition. There are also a lot of palettes depicted in his paintings
Similarly, I was recently looking at Emily Dickenson’s handwritten poems. The spaces between her words are unusually large - every word has space or ‘air’ around it. At least to me, they show how she thought about words, poetry, and each word in a poem that isn’t evident in the printed version of her works. Now when I make a palette where the colors float with plenty of air around them, I think it’s an Emily Dickenson palette/composition.
~ Meg Cranston, 2023
Meg Cranston (b. 1960, Baldwin, NY) received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts and her BA from Kenyon College. She has received numerous awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, J. Paul Getty Community Foundation Artist Grant, Architectural Foundation of American Art in Public Places Award and is currently the Chair of Fine Arts at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles.
Cranston has been exhibiting internationally since 1988. Early exhibitions include curator Paul Schimmel’s seminal 1992 exhibition Helter Skelter at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (catalog) and the 1993 Biennale di Venezia / Venice Biennale (cat.). Solo exhibitions include the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Gund Gallery, Kenyon College, Ohio. Kunstverien Heilbronn, Germany, Witte de With, Rotterdam, Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Artspace, Auckland (catalog) and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
Group exhibitions in the past few years include, among others, Class Reunion, MUMOK / Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, This Brush for Hire, ICA / Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, an exhibition which she also co-curated with John Baldessari, Post-Studio, Museo Jumex / Jumex Collection, Mexico City, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Los Angeles - A Fiction at the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo and the MAC / Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon, France (cat.), L’ image volée curated by Thomas Demand at the Fondazione Prada, Milan (cat.), and L.A. Exuberance, Los Angeles County Museum of Art / LACMA.
Cranston’s work is included in major collections worldwide including, among others, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.