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Press Release

For her Seminal Projects debut, esteemed San Diego artist Gail Roberts will present a new series of paintings titled Accumulations.  In Accumulations, Roberts juxtaposes the natural and the man-made in paintings that are memorials to the amassing of material items - synthetic and organic, permanent and fugitive - collections that take years to acquire, such as a library of paperbacks, versus a layer of freshly fallen leaves that gather in minutes. The piles of objects in Roberts' paintings refer to patterans, or trails, a word originating in Europe for signs used by travelers as messages left for the purpose of informing any of their companions, who might be straggling behind, the route which they had taken.  Patterans were made of natural materials, such as handfuls of grass thrown on the ground or stones heaped in cairns.  They were markings at cross-roads, sometimes seen at a great distance, ordinary objects used to trace a path back to a place - Hansel and Gretel style - though they are commonly things that don't look out of place and can't be easily disrupted.  Seen within this context, the steep pyramid piles in these paintings are inadvertent trail-markers of our current time.

The paintings in Accumulations also refer to modern landfills and the concept of returning all things back to their organic origins.  Because of recent changes in their life and living situation, Roberts and her husband have established a symbiotic system of trade with the local landfill - simultaneously discarding and acquiring.  Landfills signify the 'war on waste',  but the paintings are intended to illuminate what is overlooked as a means of contemplating and reassessing what is valued and what is thrown away.  Landfills eerily represent the huge quantities of abandoned goods generated by the masses; these paintings reference the accumulations of one household. 

In a review published in Art in America, the critic Robert Pincus writes: "Spend time with her [Roberts] art and you are likely to feel the collapse of distinctions between the natural world and the things we fabricate...This method of of blurring the boundary between nature and culture has the aura of pantheism hovering about it, and a viewer could get the impression that Roberts is indulging in the visual equivalent of new-age poetry. But that underestimates her sophistication. She is exhorting us to see nature as a luminous mirror of our ceaseless obsession with mortality. As her artist statement says, seeing nature wax and wane around her, she has become acutely aware of the fragility of life. Landscapes are radiant texts, if you take the time to learn how to read them. The notion is Emersonian or, if we look to the parallel in 19th-century American painting, Luminist. Roberts has become a vital artist in this tradition."

A graduate of the University of New Mexico, Gail Roberts is currently on the faculty at San Diego State University. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, The Lux Art Institute, Oakland Museum, Tamarind Institute, and numerous other public and private collections worldwide.


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