Artists Embrace the Abstract at Gaze Modern

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BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY APR 12, 2019

Step away from the figurative and embrace the abstract this weekend at Gaze Modern, where the penultimate exhibition of the gallery’s inaugural season celebrates the intertwined worlds and art of the husband-and-wife artist duo of Mary Grandpré and Tom Casmer. Opening Saturday and entitled Common Denominator: the mechanics and organics of form, the exhibition juxtaposes the pair’s divergent but complementary approaches to abstraction, and marks the first time the couple has shown together, outside of a group setting. For Grandpré, it also demarcates a career switch, as the famous figurative illustrator changes course for the unknown.

“People will see strong design on both sides,” says Grandpré, noting that although she and Casmer have very different aesthetics and motifs, an artistic kinship and commonality comes through in an attention to form and shape and line—using them all in concert to capture a viewer’s eye and direct it across the canvas. It’s an exploration of the fundamental power of abstraction (or an abstract exploration of the power of fundamentals), and though Casmer’s work may lean towards the mechanical, inspired by circuit boards and old-school machinery to the point that Grandpré calls them “whimsical blueprints,” while her own paintings favor the organic and intuitive, the lot converge at a vanishing point that transcends individual style. “We didn’t realize how much [we inspired each other],” says Grandpré, “until we put our work together and saw the common denominator.”

And for Grandpré, a celebrated children’s book illustrator perhaps most famous for her work on the American prints of the Harry Potter books, the jump to abstraction represents a radical change in this artist’s career. But also a necessary one. “I just wasn’t satisfied as an artist,” says Grandpré, who found herself tired of constantly working on someone else’s vision and taking direction from another’s muse. “I never really knew how it would feel to approach a canvas without a plan,” she says, “but that’s what I do now.” Canvases are not outlined and pre-planned or judged by a third party’s destination, but each an evolving entity in the path of Grandpré’s exploration. “It’s all about freedom,” she says.

Common Denominator opens at Gaze Modern this Saturday, April 13. Both Casmer and Grandpré will be in attendance at the opening reception on that day at 5pm.

Pictured: "Sleepwalker" by Mary Grandpre.

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