Beautiful Decay Anthology
Out of Xanadu
Spanning from the eco-friendly and sustainable residences of today back to their glass and steel ancestors of the sixties and seventies. Michelle Wasson’s ongoing interest in visionary architecture provides the core of her recent exhibition, Out of Xanadu, at the Linda Warren Gallery. These homes are the subject of Wasson’s glittering and imaginative landscapes.
Wasson has spent the past few years examining the last four decades of futuristic and visionary residential architecture from Michael Reynold’s ongoing Earthship in Taos, New Mexico to the exhibition’s signature structure, Bob Masters and Roy Mason’s Xanadu, the kitschy polyurethane domes that gilded tourist traps in America throughout the seventies.
The variety of homes in Wasson’s landscapes detail an ever-changing perception of what the future will bring. They show that which has yet to come and a new outlook that has yet to go along in its predecessor’s footsteps.
The most successful of the bunch are uplifting, hard won paradises offering the hope for an enduring civilization. The homes are situated remotely, sometimes seated casually on vistas and surrounded by day-glo foliage. Leaves, trees, and ridgelines are formed by layered streaky psychedelic spectrums.
However, the works are far from being detailed representations and Wasson’s peculiar method of painting rarely helps accurately describe where abstraction ends and figuration begins.
Each work is made from roughly two hundred vinyl masks and a foam roller coated in iridescent neon and pastel acrylics. Wasson starts with a large smooth base on each work and builds upwards masking of each outcropping of flora and hexagonal window, ending with the delicate acrylic crests that highlight the edges of glass and steel.
In the more recent works, Wasson has added new elements, airbrushing and large gloopy strokes are reoccurring. In one of the exhibition’s most striking painting, Xanadu (2005) contains a pinkish-red airbrushed aura edging landscape’s kaleidoscopic ridgeline in neon. Another, Model Dome(2006), has layered large and thick brush strokes placed freely in the foreground to form what teeters between being a purely expressionist mass of paint or an otherworldly plant.
In the back wall of the main gallery is The Doublefall Seating Arrangement (2006), an installation complete with sound and subtle sculptural elements. The work’s centerpiece is a large painting of the same name, and it is the work in Wasson’s exhibition that separates it from a conventional painting show. Doublefall shows a mystical tropical oasis; a secluded waterfall is mirrored amongst hanging vines and an orange sun sets in the background. Nearby, two Wendell Castle molar chairs, a garage-sale-purchased Fikus, and faux-wood outlet covers create a relaxing quasi-sci-fi setting. The installation is delicately amplified by the muzak of tomorrow that wafts around the space. It’s an ambient three-track album composed by ambient-duo Chelsea Park West and produced by artist Sabina Ott. Wasson’s work shows the futility of prophecy, documenting futures that are now remembered and their contemporary children that are nearing the bend. It makes no predictions, but still beams with a sense of optimism and hope for not just painting, but for civilization as a whole.
Michelle Wasson at
Linda Warren Gallery 2006