by Gerrit Henry

With all the joy taken in viewing McCroskey-Hrehov’s new ceramic mosaic wall sculptures, we can only imagine great joy in the making. Notions of beauty, too, inform the work, a beauty as hale, even as sanguine, as it is, subtly, sublime.

Leaves - specifically, oaks leaves - have long occupied McCroskey-Hrehov’s imagination, leaves being, perhaps, emblematic of the dual identity of so much nature - delicate, but durable, soft, but becoming brittle, spindly and smooth. In a piece like the 18-by 36- by 2-inch Oak Leaf Diptych, dualities are almost wildly manifest.

The piece comes in two parts; the leaves are divided in two down their middles by thinner than air “spinal cords”. Two tiles support one leaf apiece - one green leaf against a high-sheen, autumn-orange, the other orange leaf against a plain green. Both tiles-cum-leaves are seen against vestiges of a formally quirky, black and white grid
perfect for the geometrically abandoned occasion. There is, to paraphrase William Blake, “a cheerful symmetry.

This is not to say that Mc-Croskey-Hrehov is using any particular formula in her work. The tour de force of this exhibition comes, in fact in nine parts rather than two. Red Leaf Field comprises nine tiles, arranged three by three, horizontally and vertically, sporting oak leaves of a dusky red cast, the reliefs measuring an impressive 4 by 6 feet by 1.5 inches. The leaves are seen against very American-Arts-and Crafts-movement sorts of abstract floral grounds of the same color, grounds which also, as the piece’s title indicates, bring to mind the richly monotone serializings of much American color field painting of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Whatever the influences, McCroskey-Hrehov is on surer ground here - technically as well as conceptually - than she has ever been before. Tensions do abide. But unity is sought and achieved through the artist’s special vision - a Matissean joy at the prospect of making, and even seeing, a heady formal beauty.

  ©2004 Nancy McCroskey
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