Jen Stark: “To the Power Of” at Martha Otero Gallery
by Shana Nys Dambrot
Jen Stark is a woman who knows how to make an unforgettable entrance: literally. Not only has she managed a smashing debut as an official LA-based artist, moving here from her native Miami a matter of weeks before the opening of “To the Power Of;” but the most dazzling of all the hypnotic works in that show are a pair of sculptural objects carving out geodesic portals that shimmer like rainbow rifts in the fabric of space. Both the freestanding Cosmic Distortion, 2012 (standing 36 1/2 inches) and the wall-embedded recess Whole, 2012 (with a radius approximately 42 inches) are impressive feats of patience, precision, and advanced fractal mathematics that beckon viewers forward, daring them to lean further, to reach inside when no one is looking, to go in. These negative spaces contain within their receding dimensions crisply defined, twisting stacks of cut paper, orchestrated to replicate geological, cosmological, and striated optics. Engineered through a process of algorithmic measurement and chromatic zestiness, her results speak to both the mysteries of sacred geometry and funhouse psychedelia.
By way of contrast, the wall-hanging Cascade (69 inches long) is made with the same classroom-simple set of materials, but references looser kinds of fractal math, such as that which might formulate the patterns of a waterfall, or a peacockÕs feathery spread. The level of dense, tiny detail in all the work seems to defy the limited powers of the hand and eye, rendering with a microscopic precision and macroscopic perspective at the same time, laying claim to the universal fundamentals of material structure, and to the joy of pure delight. Other acrylic paint-based works reference the striated fields, or alternatively set them to dissolving in waves of layered, organic, expressive abstraction. Those paint and felt-tip on paper works are vibrant and organic and quite beautiful, like ramshackle English-style gardens infused with a jazzy palette; but it’s the construction-paper constructions that possess the alluring oomph of the magical. They don’t depict so much as they evoke, or reenact, the sacred geometry of crop circles and star maps–but with a whiff of light-hearted Burning Man-style paganism, a nod to schoolroom craft time, and a wallop of post-Op Art abstraction.