Scene Magazine / Santa Barbara News-Press, November 21, 2003

Post-‘zip’
BY CHARLES DONELAN

The new exhibit of mixed media work by Jack N. Mohr now on view at the Santa Barbara Visitors and Conference Bureau takes two strong directions — up and in. In the works loosely grouped as “Progression,” the artist draws the viewer into the depths of the pictorial space with a shifting array of geometric shapes.

In the canvases grouped as “Networks,” the dominant force is a vertical stripe, often. Complicated on the surface by other elements embedded, from twine and nylon mesh to nails. The result is a pleasing experience in the present that bears fascinating traces of the past.

The “Progression” pictures make use of an industrial palette of reflective gray, blue, red and green, but they do so in a way that softens the effect and steers the viewer away from their associations with the man-made and toward the natural world. “Blue World,” with its aggressive, angular facture, achieves the paradox of cubism, in which the multiplication and repetition of planes and surfaces results in a stronger sense of the whole.

“Light over S.B.” is almost a cubist landscape, but again, there are hints of something else in the handling and associations of the materials.

The “Networks” series is about connection. Once upon a time, abstract painters acted like priests or sorcerers. With every canvas they asserted the connection between here and beyond.

The abstract pictorial convention most closely associated with transcendence lies traditionally been the “zip,” a vertical line or stripe that extends unbroken from the bottom to the top of the picture plane.

Perhaps the best known examples are by Barnett Newman, but everyone has at one time or another seen one of these pictures — they are archetypal.

In “Big Red,” a large, horizontally shaped canvas, Mohr confronts Barnett Newman’s best-known work, the big red canvas known as “Vir Heroicus Sublimus,” directly. Mohr’s “Big Red” is a great picture, at once studied and spontaneous in feeling, and extremely direct in its effect.

Another large horizontally organized canvas, “Two Bodies Spiked Red,” is identified as part of a Series of “String-works,” but is clearly from the same creative season. The strings that angle through the picture's black and white stripes create shapes that shift as they move through the red field, giving a sense of flowing.

This feeling returns in the three vertically organized canvases that make up the suite called “White Body.”

It's exciting to have someone with the depth and range of Jack N. Mohr working in Santa Barbara, and this show demonstrates that his commitment to exploration and progression in the fine arts is unflagging.

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