Garland Fielder

Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas

Alison Hearst

Garland Fielder, Tetrahedron Diptych, 2008-2010; acrylic on canvas mounted on wood; 28 x 56 inches; courtesy the artist and Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas

Modulations, 2010; installation view, Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas; courtesy the artist and Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas

Modulations, Houston artist Garland Fielder’s solo exhibition at Holly Johnson Gallery, is packed with subtle surprises that challenge presumptions about geometric form and the regimentation one might expect from mathematic configurations. Spartanly installed in the back half of the gallery, Fielder’s ten paintings and five sculptures can each stand alone but here unite to form a chorus of modulating shapes and forms. A modulation is an adjustment in the tone, pitch or volume of a sound, and the works on view present geometric forms similarly altered and askew. Layered abstractions and quirky installations defy the predictability of the modular systems that Fielder’s works suggest. His images and objects lead the viewer’s eyes along unforeseen digressions, disrupting the subconscious habit of assuming patterns and visually completing forms.

Three paintings, Tetrahedron Diptych, Octahedron Diptych and Hexahedron Diptych, for example, share a seemingly formulaic construction. The left panel of each diptych features a clear outline of the titular geometric shape on a black background, while each right-hand panel repeats and overlaps the left-hand shape multiple times atop an antique-white background. Rendered in rough, white-and-black lines, the abstracted forms on the right-hand panels appear to vibrate with a handmade irregularity. The right-hand panels all deceptively look the same—congealed, nearly impenetrable masses of structured lines. Only by visually picking through the spokes and spears can the viewer discern the individual shapes and a sense of order.

Fielder’s sculptures further counter the aloofness of geometry. In a gallery corner the three-part Hexahedron, Octahedron and Icosahedron (2009) playfully scales the wall. Each of its three solid black acrylic on wood sculptures resembles one of the eponymous polyhedrons. On the opposing wall Fielder affixed two untitled sculptures of open cubes; below them sits a single large, floor-bound version. These three cubes riff on Sol LeWitt’s series of Incomplete Open Cubes (1974). But whereas LeWitt’s visually similar forms feel static, sitting flush with the floor, Fielder fully animates his cubes by tilting them on their corners and sinking them into the wall or floor. The sculptures appear to float and bob within the gallery’s surfaces as if they were made of water.

The exhibition’s pièce de résistance, Untitled (Steel Octahedron), is a hulking and seductively sleek black octahedron floor piece that appears to penetrate the floor while angling upward to point, almost aggressively, at the viewer. Its automotive paint surface glimmers and attracts from afar. As the viewer circles the sculpture, each facet of the structure reflects a different scene—the viewer’s legs, the geometric paintings on nearby walls and, in another view, the gallery’s white rafters. Again, Fielder’s work catches us by surprise; the rafters mirrored in Untitled (Steel Octahedron) evoke the forms of LeWitt, but here in an unanticipated, and perhaps accidental, instance.

Alison Hearst is the Curatorial Research Assistant at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and a co-founder of Subtext Projects

This exhibition is on view through December 18, 2010.

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