Conceptual art, text-based practices, collage and hard-edge painting are all in play at Gallery 12.26 in an erudite new body of work by Eve Fowler.
Based in Los Angeles, Fowler mines these avant-garde strategies as she seamlessly intertwines them with the words of Gertrude Stein, a queer icon, art collector and writer who lived in Paris during the first half of the 20th century.
Fowler’s use of art and language directly addresses dominant power structures in order to disrupt and short-circuit their top-down hierarchies. Specifically, she targets biases related to gender, sexuality and feminism.
She follows in the footsteps of pioneering female artists from the postmodern tradition who weaponized language more than three decades ago, including Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer.
Where they used media and photography, Fowler retrieves artistic styles developed by men, like Picasso’s collage technique and the large-scale paintings of text executed by Christopher Wool.
She uses these art forms as formalist templates that are in turn filled with text appropriated from Stein’s writing. In an act of recontextualization, Stein’s words become something they were never meant to be: visual art.
Similarly, Picasso’s and Wool’s aesthetics are imbued for the first time with women’s queer theory in a move that’s precisely the reason that Fowler’s work is so moving and original.
The overwhelming scale of the four paintings in the main gallery — just shy of 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide — is meant to disarm the viewer with bold contrasts in color between solid backgrounds, overlaid with text, in varying shades of paint.
Fowler chose to work with car paint on aluminum for an impersonal, shiny and austere result that resists revealing any hint of human agency on the surface.
A flat picture plane devoid of texture or any distraction defines these paintings, highlighting a vibrant, optically active text that’s anything but static. This is clearly visible in the capstone piece Please Recall to Me Everything You Have Thought Of (2020).
Text in pink, white and red resonates over a black background, taking Stein’s words somewhere unexpected.
A blue background carries the text in A Shudder Makes a Shake (2020). In this work, the text makes the eye shudder with a stencil motif that includes the blue as part of the lettering.
In another gallery, smaller collages were created by the artist choosing text at random and splicing the phrases together. This is a strategy Stein herself experimented with, in an exhibition that she’ll never see but that nevertheless is completely in keeping with her ethos.
Eve Fowler’s “Just Seated Beside the Meaning” is on view through Feb. 13 at Gallery 12.26, 150 Manufacturing St., No. 205, Dallas. Tuesday through Friday by appointment, Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. Free. For more information, call 214-533-8263 or email [email protected]