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Imagine taking a fistful of crayons, wrapping them in a spider’s sac, hanging the sac from an open windowframe, and letting a gentle breeze make the colors repeatedly graze against a paper screen.  Artist Laurie Reid – who is based in the San Francisco Bay area, and began showing in Boston soon after her work appeared in the 2000 Whitney Biennial – didn’t do that.  But what did she do, with colored pencil, to create the whispering marks that collect on her small pages, fine as light dust?

These pieces, along with two other types of work in the same small square format, grace the walls of osp gallery (in the SoWa building, on Harrison Avenue) until January 20th.  All the works are untitled, most are 11 x 11 inches, and they share a palette of bright, contrasting colors.   Though Reid has used this palette before – in her 2004 exhibition at osp, vivid droplets of watercolor created spare patterns across large expanses of paper – now these same colors seem less like a party and more like a pondering.  Reid uses her trademark colors, and delicate touch, to open up spaces that she at first seems to be closing down.  The results are well worth a slow visit.

The three types of work in this show – shapes made of almost-Arabic scribal gestures, diagrammatic drawings of interconnecting lines, and the barely visible bundles of traces already described (but impossible to photograph) – at first seem like nests or even infestations of marks.  Their dense concentrations flatten the space in constrained compositions.  But then, upon closer inspection, the space expands again.  The areas of quasi-calligraphy seem to grow in dimension; the always-turning direction of the lines rounds out the forms.  In the schematic drawings, is an unexpectedly dramatic angle indicating a shape popping out?  Or is it an outline of an illusory shadow?  The play of 2D and 3D in these works gives them a pliability which is poignant, not just perplexing:  colors bleed into each other, and their contrasts set up emotional as well as spatial tensions. The space in the colored pencil drawings is the most open, perhaps because the medium itself allows for more airiness in the marks themselves. (These are the only works not done in gouache.) Their forms are less definitive, more mutable. If you blow on them, they might just disperse.

One larger painting, hanging unframed over the back desk, recalls Reid’s earlier one-person exhibition at osp, in which several paintings on huge pieces of paper were also mounted directly on the walls. While this earlier work assembled paint drips, or trails of water, into ersatz words, lines, and even paragraphs – not surprising for an artist who majored in French literature – Reid’s new works do not look so uniformly scribal. Of course, the calligraphic pieces reference writing, but all the current works seem to be exploring structural networks, showing inner workings. Though their forms are dynamic, exploratory, and not tied-down, they are also inwardly-focused, deliberating, even solemn. It will be interesting to see what else Laurie Reid has to say with these new internal structures.

OSP Gallery

"Laurie Reid: Recent Paintings" iss on view December 1 - January 13 at OSP Gallery.

All images are courtesy of the artist and Open Studios Press Gallery.

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