“Languages of Color” – Mike Stack & Tim Jag Review in the Albuquerque Journal

By Kate McGraw / For the Journal on Fri, Nov 4, 2011 in the Albuquerque Journal North

Two artists obsessed with color – but in differing ways – open in a two-man show at Chiaroscuro’s Canyon Road location today.

The bodies of work of Mike Stack and Tim Jag both fall into the geometric abstraction genre, at least according to gallery director John Addison, and use uniform straight lines and slight variations in color to achieve radically different results. However, Stack’s approach is more emotional, and Jag’s more cerebral.

Mike Stack

If you go
WHAT: “November Feature,” Mike Stack and Tim Jag
WHEN: Today through Dec. 3; no reception
WHERE: Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art’s Main Space, 702 1/2 Canyon Road on Gypsy Alley
CONTACT: 505-992-0711; chiaroscurosantafe.com

Stack is a recent addition to Chiaroscuro’s stable of artists. Based in Tucson, Stack has been painting for more than 20 years. He exhibits in Arizona, Philadelphia and New York, and has been a professor of art at Pima Community College in Tucson since 2002. This is his first show in Santa Fe.

“Stack’s paintings are built upon a rigid structure of equidistant horizontal lines painted in slightly varying hues of color,” Addison said. “The palette is carefully considered, providing an endless variation on hue.”

“I would say it’s more abstraction than geometric,” Stack said in a telephone interview. “It’s definitely not biomorphic or anything, so I guess you could call it geometric abstraction. For me, I guess, I am a colorist. Variation in color is almost like an entity to me.

“I spent many years painting from life and wound up having more of an interest in color on its own, and variation on its own,” the artist said. “Eventually I just kind of peeled away everything but the color itself.

“Although the paintings are abstract, there’s very much a relationship to nature,” Stack added. “I like the way these minute variations crackle and how they buzz and how they sit there and shimmer.”

That shimmer of subtle color variations “pretty much confirms what I’m trying to do,” he said. He paints in oil. “It’s a pretty slow-going process,” Stack confirmed. “It’s really hard to paint these paintings, because the values are so close.”

Stack has lived in Tucson 17 years. “It’s the light,” he said. “It’s just fantastic. And back of my house there’s a canyon – the way the light gets trapped here day to day, that’s definitely what draws me.”

He sent six paintings and some drawings to the gallery, “but I’m not sure how many John (Addison) is hanging,” he said. “I think maybe four paintings.”

His work has gotten larger and larger, he said. A couple of the paintings in this show are 76-by-72 inches.

“I was working in the 32-by-32 inch range for a long time, then a friend said, ‘You really have to fall into these paintings,’ so I increased the size, and it actually worked out really well,” he said. “I’m just trying to see what happens next. Every day they just evoke something new. Something about these paintings – they change all the time, under lighting, through time. A lot has to do with the optical mixing that I put forth. I don’t think it fatigues the eye, but they definitely change every time you look at them,” Stack said.

Tim Jag

Jag’s intellectual, linear color experimentations all seem to end in a vector somewhere on the plane, indicative of his fascination with astronomy, “Star Trek” and other visions from the sky. He calls his latest series “Colornovas,” reflective of a star being born or dying.

As with Stack’s, the work relies on thin strips of carefully considered colors, but Jag’s lines join together at a definitive point, forming the nucleus of an ever-expanding color nova. Both large and small scale pieces will be on view. Jag elaborated in a written statement, “The paintings are my way of abstractly using color and symmetry to symbolize celestial movement and experience. Formally, these paintings strive for balance between flat space versus depth, and color sensations that come out of color juxtapositions.”

Jag has exhibited widely across the Southwest. He currently lives in California, after having lived in Santa Fe for a while.

“For me, the act of painting is a process of how the grid (industrial culture) defines itself from the natural world: an inclusive act that brings in cultural media and ephemera from that culture,” the artist has written. “Having an affinity for industrial design and pop culture, I find visual resources as random as the hardware store, the toy store, the produce department at a supermarket, dated textiles and papers, beat-up billboards, highway signs and symbols or the design of a magazine ad. With this in mind, I want my paintings to reflect the way culture organizes and builds upon itself – specifically, the way architecture and infrastructural design separates us from the organic world. As such, symmetrical organizing has become a central issue in the painting process.

Jag has moved from the pop side to a more abstract understanding of his concepts, though.

“This new painting series I am calling ‘Colornovas’ because they are a way for me to visualize an interest in the phenomena of stars within our solar system,” he wrote in an artist’s statement. “The paintings are my way of abstractly using color and symmetry to symbolize celestial movement and experience. At its core these paintings use a single point that all things lead to or fly away from. This interest in stars is multifaceted in its concepts and springs from numerous sources.

“My interest was first sparked by the iconic and symbolic use of sun imagery within culture (like the Japanese flag or 13th-century religious paintings showing rays of light symbolizing spiritual illumination or sun and star symbols in drawings of ancient cultures),” he wrote. “Contemporary sources include the classic scene in the TV series ‘Star Trek’ – when the starship Enterprise takes off and you see the phenomena of streaking stars or the stage-crafted pyrotechnics of light blasting across or behind at a modern rock concert. And there are milder images from nature that show the same patterns in things such as flowers and spider webs. The end result is a reading or redefining of a cultural archetype (star pattern and image).

“Technically, my process includes the use of aggressive mark-making and scratching with inks and sharp tools, re-staining and sanding, symmetrical drawing, and painterly characteristics such as color contrast, plasticity, and multiple layering of colors,” Jag said. “Formally, these paintings strive for balance between flat space versus depth, and color sensations that come out of color juxtapositions.

“Color is a jumping-off point for the paintings where I can keep visual movement going through symmetry and use color as a signifier for a variety of ideas (symbolic and metaphorical),” he added.” I am working on a painting called ‘Red Atomic’ that uses movement and color (red) to capture the burst of an atomic blast or the hot cinnamon flavor of the hard candy called Red’s Atomic Balls. Within the paintings, color is a central issue – how colors work together formally and how I personally distill external color sources into painting content.”