By: Ade Omotosho
For several decades, Miami-based artist Lynne Golob Gelfman has produced paintings inspired by the formal structure of the grid. The appearance of the grid in these paintings varies within her diverse bodies of work. At times, it feels faintly perceptible; at others, its presence is distinct. In either case, the grid is there, a dynamic organizing principle that lends Gelfman a structure with which to experiment. Her works are inspired by sources as varied as textiles, the delicate patterning of plants, and the “glyphs” left by crabs or worms as they move underneath sand. While the paintings are abstract and not directly referential of nature, Gelfman is open to the referential interpretations her works sometimes invite. Ahead of her exhibition Grids: A Selection of Paintings by Lynne Golob Gelfman, which opens at PAMM on September 15, I visited the artist’s studio to discuss her work. What follows is a brief transcript of our conversation.
Omotosho: The grid is often described as rigid and strict because of the simplicity of its design. For example, Rosalind Krauss, in her seminal essay “Grids,” characterizes it—I think somewhat unfairly—as a form that resists development. Do you think of the grid as a constraining structure?
Golob Gelfman: I think it’s liberating. You could be Sol Lewitt, his thinking was: I’m going to give you the plan for the painting and you’re going to go paint it—that’s a very precise project. Then there’s the Kuba weaver, the African weaver who always has a certain pattern in his memory which he repeats, but he’s free to meander. He’s like a trickster figure, he can break the rules. But the grid is the rule, so in a way it gives you more freedom because you’re reacting against something.
Do you feel a spiritual connection to the work you create?
That repetition of gridding on the surface and then applying the triangle [in the thru series]—it’s like you’re raking the sand; it’s centering, it’s quiet. You get in there and it slows you down. You don’t have to rush to make a splash.
What is the role of chance in your practice?
I consider chance important. That’s why the work is fun. I see these paintings as children’s games even, like a scratchboard. It’s the same idea—I make a plan, something happens, I can delete or add or enhance, whatever I want. You can control it, but you’re still working in an area of the unknown. I think you’re creating an arena for chance and the grid gives you a structure to play with.
Do you like to be in control entirely while you’re painting or do you like to be caught off guard?
Both. It’s fun to test your limits.
How do your early bodies of work compare to your recent paintings?
My more recent work is distinct in that it deals with different bifurcations of triangle. In the earlier work, a diagram I made beforehand often determined the placement of color shifts. While these recent grids are repetitive, the changes are more spontaneous.
The phenomena of light seems like just one aspect of everyday life that inspires your paintings. What intrigues you about light?
I think I’m still curious about how the light is so strong [in Miami] that it bleaches things out. It alters your perception of things, and I’m very interested in dappled light and seeing the disappearance of light. For example, in the new paintings (breath), you’ll often see the centers getting softer and gradually disappearing.
What concerns, artistic or otherwise, have preoccupied you lately?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how the grid represents a secure structure and how, as our society falls apart, the grids in the paintings seem to be dissolving. I see the grid as a metaphor for environmental and ethical collapse.
About Notes on the Collection
“Notes on the Collection,” a blog series by Pérez Art Museum Miami’s (PAMM) first Ford Foundation Curatorial Fellow Ade Omotosho, where he’ll focus on artworks on view from the exhibitions and from the museum’s permanent collection. Omotosho will share his notes on his personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences with various artworks that he hopes might provide a generative way to think about PAMM’s diverse collection.
About Ade Omotosho
Ade Omotosho is the inaugural Ford Foundation Curatorial Fellow at Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Prior to PAMM, he was the Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow in the photography department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His research focuses on international modern and contemporary art with a particular interest in the practices of artists of the African diaspora. He received his Bachelor of Arts in art history from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2017.