MARIA LYNCH: RATIONAL EXUBERANCE
While the rest of us remember our childhood with a distanced fondness, Maria Lynch reawakens hers every day. Her art is one of insouciant play, a restless invention and reinvention of forms and colors and motions and gestures – and, off the canvas, ideas and theatrics, spaces and spectacles. Indeed, there is space and spectacle on her canvases as well, and what Lynch realizes as installation and as performance in a sense extends rather than contrasts with her paintings.
In her painting Lynch is constantly modifying her formal language, her sense of composition, the architecture and atmosphere of her imagery. These changes are relatively subtle; the basic characteristics of her painted work have remained stable, maintaining Lynch’s ludic sensibility and evincing her debt to the vitality of mid-century gestural abstraction. She clearly inherits from the mischievous painters of CoBrA, the more exuberant abstract expressionists and tachistes, and certain informel artists of South America, even as she brings out the gamine side of this once-macho style, finds the child inside the adult, and embraces the garden no less than the jungle. But, just like the jungle’s, the garden’s design keeps changing, its blooms keep coming up different shades and different shapes. The mapping strategy of each series is notably different than that of the last.
The series Lynch has realized in the United States presents a more fluid vitality than have previous series. Textures and colors are more mutable, more aqueous than before, suggesting undersea flora and fauna. And like underwater life, these apparitions boast of their own fecundity, bristling as they do with stamens and pistils, eggs and spermatozoa. Lynch is preoccupied here with sex and procreation – but in no way that would arouse her viewers, only fascinate them. She is a child awed and awash in a world of natural cycles, she is an artist trying to cycle along with nature, and she is an instructor bringing us out among natural phenomena and reminding us of what we learned as children. Nature’s embrace is thorough, she reaffirms, its particulars are captivating, and it is as threatening and yet as jocular as anything we could imagine.
Lynch’s proposed performances drive this message home by turning away from it – by defying nature rather than mirroring it. By making magic, illusion, and intimate sensorial experience the thrust of her live art, Lynch reaffirms the dimension of human awareness that transcends the natural realm (without, of course, renouncing nature altogether). Here, the inventiveness of the child, and of the child’s species, overtakes the child’s desire to be awed: no longer does the child turn to natural phenomena for revelation and surprise, but to the phenomena we cultivate in our individual and collective minds.
Whether painting or performing (or sculpting or assembling, as she often has), Maria Lynch infuses her artwork with an unstinting and infectious glee. She is trying more than to entertain us or herself, however: she wants to remind us of our own ability to entertain ourselves, simply by looking around and remembering how we used to see things. Her paintings are testimony to how we came as children to appreciate the vast and ever-changing natural environment. And her live actions remind us that we ourselves are ever-changing entities. We knew all this as children; Lynch doesn’t want us to forget.