From a distance outside Karma International I could already discern a floating composition of yellow and sanguine red cocooning a cerulean blue. Upon entering the gallery I brushed against the imposing canvas, its lower edges draped unavoidably close to the doorway. Like this painting, the remainder of the works were similarly suspended from the ceiling or otherwise layered over one another on the walls.
Since 1982, Vivian Suter (b. 1949) has lived in Panajachel, Guatemala. The tropical climate and sweeping vistas of her lakeside residence do not so much inform as perform themselves in her work. Suter produces her paintings on stretchers, then un-stretches them. Liberated from constraint they bear the traces of their literally wild plein air creation.
In a comparatively moody composition (all works Untitled, 2017) one can easily make out a horizon split by verdant waters and triangular mountains, while others are monochrome washes that evoke sunsets, tree bark, or avocado flesh. Installed upstairs are four vibrant, adamantly geometric collages by the artist’s mother, Elisabeth Wild (b. 1922), that provide a structural counterbalance to Suter’s gestural methods. Compositionally diametric yet chromatically in synch, the juxtaposition is somehow blunt and subtle, as if to remind the viewer that the artists and artworks are genuinely related.
As I made my way back downstairs I noticed an incoming visitor was holding the front door open for someone. The sudden rush of air made the entire installation flow—canvases undulating, fleetingly lifting their edges to reveal otherwise hidden compositions. The movement of the paintings made tangible the invisible breeze, and with it the tropical flora represented in them. Just then I was there, in Panajachel, if only for an instant.
Vivian Suter and Elisabeth Wild runs September 15–November 11, 2017 at Karma International (4619 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016).
Image: Vivian Suter and Elisabeth Wild (2017) (installation view). Image courtesy of the artist and Karma International, Los Angeles. Photo: Jeff McLane.
Originally published by Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles, October 25, 2017