September 2020 Virtual Biomorphic Exhibition
Gallery Guide - Biomorphic
Works by Beth Herman Adler, Frank Connet and Jeanine Coupe Ryding
The word “biomorphic” refers to abstract shapes and forms that remind us of things from nature, whether plants, parts of the human body or smaller organisms. These three artists use biomorphic shapes within their works as a vocabulary from which to create objects of beauty, metaphor and meaning. The shapes that comprise their works are related in such a fashion that the bodies of work seem connected to one another.
Beginning in the 20th century, as artists began to work with abstraction, some artists were primarily attracted to shapes that seemed to evoke nature and to morph from a realistic reference to a more loosely organic expression. Architectural works from the Art Nouveau movement displayed this tendency, and artists such as Jean Arp, Jean Miro, and Barbara Hepworth used biomorphic forms and shapes in their work. In the 1950s, these shapes influenced design, so that there emerged furniture forms that appeared to be like amoebas and other organisms.
Beth Adler’s work strongly relates to the 1950s design movement. She has worked for many years as a graphic designer, and her fine artwork reflects a strong design element. Because much of what she does are monoprints, she can repeat the same stenciled shapes that seem to refer to pods, eggs, elongated plants and seeds, or even underwater forms. She combines these biomorphic forms with some forms that are more geometric and occasionally symmetrical, with a rich palette of strong but muted secondary colors. The works include textures that she prints into her images, and at times include recognizable images such as birds or houses. The image overlays create a strong sense of transparency and layered space. Her fondness for biomorphic shapes gives the works rich references and suggests metaphor without making any meaning direct or obvious, but instead, open to interpretation. These works are playful and delightful but sophisticated as well.
Frank Connet’s textiles not only subtly reference nature but are created with techniques that rely on nature. They are created in “mokume shibori,”a Japanese technique of repeated overdying with indigo and walnut extract, but blocking out certain areas with resist (much like batik) , allowing for interactions between water, dye and cloth. The coloration depends on how long the dyes are left on, and how the fiber takes the dyes. This organic process reflects processes in nature of growth and transformation as wind and water wear away rock and sand.
Connet’s shapes, too, are biomorphic and reference nature, whether water, stacked rocks, holes, or other natural. He organic shapes are dark forms against a more open field around the shapes; at times, it seems that the dark shapes are moving into the more open spaces, usurping and transforming the negative spaces. Because the dyed shapes are so dark, the areas outside glow with an otherworldly presence. The repeated soft lines around the sooty soft shapes carry a reference to primitive life forms or rivulets of water because they are not straight but more organic. The composition of large dark shapes altered by the irregularity of the lighter fiber shapes makes for a mysterious, glowing, and ultimately elegant and serene presence, combined with a subtle tension, as the images seem to be in the midst of morphing into a new realm.
Works by Jeanine Coupe Ryding also reference nature; her very large prints feature a combination of simple biomorphic forms against a field of smaller marks; at other times, small textural marks appear within the shapes. Her titles also refer to organic processes from cloud formation or rain, to life forms such as rocks or “Middle Earth”. But, as with the work of her fellow exhibitors, nothing is obvious or defined to be strictly interpreted as the essence of a natural phenomenon. Instead we see shapes against shapes, or shapes against negative space, intricately tied by repetition of gesture, marks, color, and smaller shapes. The formal quality of her tall narrow format suggests Japanese prints, and the influence is further evident in the quality of shape and mark. Their strong presence is less playful than those of Beth Adler’s due to their monumental quality. The works hold the solidity of landforms without directly referencing landscapes, but due to the tension and balance of shape against its background. The prints express serenity, solidity and beauty in the relationship of biomorphic shapes to their ground, supplemented by the textural mark-making by the artist.
Our three exhibiting artists have differing interests and techniques, but share a sensibility based on biomorphism. Their interest in the shapes and forms of nature and the relationship of man and nature nurture their creativity and enrich their creative practice.
Beth Herman Adler - Biography
Monoprinting is an iterative process, working with shapes and textural elements in different combinations. The initial mark making can be a random arrangement that builds to a more deliberate composition. Working with layers of color and shape, the image starts to reveal itself. Drawn, painted and collaged elements are often added to finish the compositions. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind work on paper.
Beth Herman Adler is an Evanston-based printmaker and mixed media artist. She first studied printmaking and graphic design as an undergraduate at the School of the Art Institute. Her first job after school was as a designer was for the Field Museum in Chicago, making exhibition signs and posters. Working among the plethora of natural and cultural history specimens, she developed an eye for pattern and shape in the natural world. After 25 years in the graphic design business, Beth returned to printmaking. Studying with various artists including Jeanine Coupe-Ryding at Oxbow School of Art in Saugatuk, Michigan, she learned some new techniques and eventually acquired her own press, installing it in her Evanston storefront studio. Working with found materials and stencils, Beth layers abstract shapes and textures that evoke naturally occurring forms. For the last ten years she has been showing in galleries and shows around Chicago.
Adler’s work can be viewed on her website http://www.hermanadler.com/work or at https://www.saatchiart.com/account/artworks/1517519
Beth Herman Adler
water-based ink on BFK
36” x 18” each;
Giclée $300 each
Frank Connet - Biography
My work mirrors my interest in natural phenomena: the erosion of the earth through water, the action of wind on sand, the slow accretion of minerals into stone. These are processes of change, often unfolding slowly, incrementally, that alter what seems unmovable or permanent.
I use the technique of mokume shibori, a method of resist dyeing of cloth under tension that creates linear patterns and fields of color. As in the natural phenomena I observe, this too is a repetitive and gradual process. Likewise, the rules and variables of the stitching, tension and accumulation of indigo can produce unexpected actions that resonate with what I perceive at work in the natural world. The resulting “naturalized” line of the dyeing process is that action, that force of change.
Frank Connet is a Chicago based artist working in several mediums. An interest in natural and cultural history is the starting point for much of his work. He is a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute.
Jeanine Coupe Ryding
I have been thinking about the shapes I carve for years. They change a bit each time I sketch them becoming more about the feeling, gesture and attitude I have in mind. I make a rough sketch on the block and begin carving. It is in the carving that the image transforms itself from flat line to a larger, stronger form. The wood surface influences how it is carved, with shorter cuts in a harder surface, to longer, relaxed cuts from a softer, more yielding surface.
The shapes are not purely abstract forms. They are the distillation of experiences, thoughts and relationships I have with people, my studio and with the environment. They are nightmares, observations and hopeful thoughts resting on a piece of paper.
I have had a strong relationship with wood and tools since I was a child. My father sold building materials, so scraps of wood and tools were part of my tool and toy box through my life. I don’t make prints because they can be reproduced or editioned, but because I enjoy the demands and constraints of woodcut printmaking.