Beyond Paint Values Process Over Product

Michelle Polyak, Staff Writer

The focus on the process of creating a product of art was the central theme of Becca Kahn-Bloch’s and Samuel Wechsler’s Senior Studio and Thesis show titled Beyond Paint, shown at FAVA gallery on April 26. As one of the smallest Senior Studio shows, the duo collaboratively organized their work so that it was complementary.

Kahn-Bloch works in series. Her primary artistic practice is printmaking, though it was difficult at first to distinguish how her pieces incorporated this medium. Her color palette of opaque shades of grey, purple and beige stayed constant throughout her collection, as did her use of masking tape. Kahn-Bloch prints on Plexiglas and vellum paper, creating ephemeral landscape sites interrupted by carefully carved strips of masking tape. In her artist statement she writes, “I use masking tape in my work as a means of articulating the tension between the sublime and the beautiful.”

In an interview, Kahn-Bloch explained her creative process as “starting with a print, then putting tape on and then print into that, then etching into the print.” She continued, “I wanted to merge silkscreen printmaking with a tactile material.”

She began using masking tape as a primary medium during her junior year while taking Nature of the Abstract with Professor of Studio Art, Silkscreen, Painting and Drawing John Pearson. It was in this class that Wechsler and Kahn-Bloch met and became familiar with one another’s work and method. Kahn-Bloch said, “We knew each other’s work and we wanted the pieces to show well together. We did not want each piece to just hang next to each other.”

Wechsler uses monochromatic black and white paint on medium-density fiberboard, a hard cardboard material that provides a smooth surface to work on. Wechsler explained, “My work is about process. There are two ideal colors to work with, black and white, because they can reference other things when not with the other.” He continued, “They are completely empty, like night and day.”

The importance of art as a labor-intensive process weaves through the work of both Kahn-Bloch and Wechsler. Both artists approach their respective mediums from varying perspectives, which fosters a visual dialogue between them.

Wechsler explained, “I have a few different processes. It was a lot of painting thick layers of primary white and then primary black, then using chiselers and sanders to create large, constellation-like designs.” He went on to say, “I want to show the labors of the process, which is not always so clear.”

Wechsler reiterated this sentiment in his artist statement: “Materiality and methodology become central elements, for instance, in the mechanical act of sanding and scraping, through burning a layer of paint, by mixing glue, or by collaging a surface.” By transforming the monotonous colors of black and white through a laborious process, Wechsler unearths beauty in the mundane.

Kahn-Bloch claims a similar outlook, saying, “My work attempts to render the sublime using the language of the beautiful, and to occupy the liminal space in between.” By experimenting with material and medium, Kahn-Bloch’s work does indeed occupy said space. The intentional stress on process-based artwork culminates in the thought-provoking work each artist presented in Beyond Paint.