Brooklyn-based artist Louise Despont’s 2008 and 2010 exhibitions at Nicelle Beauchene’s Lower East Side galleries demonstrated—through video, sculpture, and precisely rendered, though somewhat muted, works on paper—a promising imagination refining her approach. With her current show, also the gallery’s first at its new Broome Street digs, Despont has found her voice in color. Her faded salmon, midnight blue, and shimmering gold leaf color choices are in keeping with the timeless air of previous works penciled on antique ledger book pages. Yet this newly employed range lends vitality to a practice that for the past five years has progressively zeroed in on Despont’s half-borrowed, half-made-up spiritual-geometric language, but only now comes into full bloom. Her grasp of color in the present works is less of a new turn than a fuller realization of the themes she has grappled with previously; one would be hard-pressed to find a young artist who has digested and combined such far-flung image traditions as astrology, Persian carpet weaving, and cold hard geometry to this obsessive extent. The new works grab our attention and hold it with their beguiling intricacy, each colorful layer now speaking for itself.
Bathing Constellation, Dusk is a life-sized drawing on side-by-side ledger sheets featuring a pair of merpeople composed of precisely executed circles and triangular forms immersed in a harlequin-patterned sea. The horizon gives way to a curvaceous darkness eclipsing the setting sun, represented by a shiny circle of copper leaf in the center of an acutely rendered starburst. Serpens, the show’s centerpiece, is an enormous multi-sheet graphite and colored pencil drawing of a Persian carpet whose dazzling geometries span several shades of red and pink. Knotted green snake forms appear throughout in an apparent nod to the constellation of the same name. The presentation of the rows of ledger pages themselves, which seem to only be pinned down at their top corners and are partially left to float toward the frame glass, add a sense of dimension and physicality.
Work made on a very large or very small scale can sometimes struggle to communicate much beyond big or small. Not so at Despont’s show, where visitors will want to utilize the gallery’s new square footage to see the intricacy of works like Serpens up close, then back up to feel their monumentality. Sometimes harnessing the power of several scales and styles in a single drawing, Despont demonstrates the ability to expand her elaborate alphabet into multi-tonal artworks—now in color!
Louise Despont’s “Tide Fulcrum and the Motion of Fixed Stars” is on view through January 20 at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, 327 Broome Street.
Image courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery.