I recently interviewed both artists to ask about their backgrounds and interconnections.
John Seed Interviews Hearne Pardee and Gina Werfel
How did the two of you meet and develop your concurrent artistic practices?
HP: We both studied at the New York Studio School in the 70s, where we were influenced by Leland Bell and Mercedes Matter. Both emphasized work from observation, with Mercedes coming out of the Hofmann tradition, which took spatial relationships observed from the model into abstraction. I began painting outdoors while there, and Gina came along a couple of years later.
GW: While still in graduate school at Columbia, I won an award from the Artists for the Environment to be a resident artist at Bear Mountain with several other artists who used nature in diverse ways: Melissa Meyer, Ned Smyth among others. I discovered during my stay that painting rocky stream beds served as metaphors for Renaissance and Mannerist figure compositions that I had studied as a student in Italy and moved my work closer to abstract rhythms.
HP: I worked with Philip Guston, who was teaching at the Studio School then, and under his influence I produced the "Night" painting. He told me then that I wouldn't ever go back to work outside after having that experience, but I was never totally convinced, and began keeping both work from observation and more abstract work going at the same time. Gina kept painting outdoors but became much more involved with gestures and painterly marks when she started painting outside the city. I kept looking for right angles in the woods and Gina found a connection to organic forms to construct space.
HP: I began doing small collages based on the outdoor paintings in 1980, trying to get more involved with color. When we moved to California in 2001, we both painted outdoors for several years, but then began to change. Gina began making abstractions in the studio and I began making large collages in acrylics; the colors I added became less about enhancing the colors in the subject and more about making new relationships emerge from the field - in this sense I see myself going back to the way I worked in "Night", although now including work from observation (I start the collages with painting outdoors).
GW: Our practices intersect through our common artistic training at the New York Studio School. We were both trained in the legacy of Hofmann's teaching of "push-pull" planes in space and how abstraction underlies even the most realistic rendering of forms. I look to Hearne's work for its architectural solidity and its careful demarcation of color relationships coming out of his training at Yale under Sewell Sillman, a student of Albers. My work deals more with the chaos of marks and unresolved forms, and yet, an underlying architecture of forms in space is what holds my paintings together.
Where our practices diverge? Hearne's is architecturally based, mine more organic and intuitive, bordering on all over chaos. However, at the same time, we both relish the risk taking of process based work, such as gluing down a piece of collage, only to cover it up with a corrected notation.
HP: I see the main intersection in the way we both work with overall space, which includes both work from observation and abstraction - the way forms emerge from the field. I think the big change in modern art comes with the idea that creation is more a way of organizing the field rather than depicting a model. I go much more into the way this idea involves the grid and frame, and ground myself in direct observation, where Gina gets more into gestures and spontaneous marks. I'm more concerned with a sort of ethnographic approach to the everyday environment, more documentary.
GW: We have shown together in the past, however, in different contexts, where our work tended to be treated as solo shows side by side. The Adlers have hung this show differently, where the show's title (he said, she said) truly speaks to the differences/similarities in each of our works, and yet our works are investigating similar issues, such as a figure in space, a set of abstract colors and forms jostling for space. My works fracture space and form, whereas Hearne's hold forms together in a solid envelope of space. I love what a painter friend said about the show tonight, that it is a call and response kind of pairing. It is hung densely, challenging the viewer to contemplate convergences and diversity in the works side by side. Does our partnership (both personal and artistic) reveal itself in the works on view?
November 7-December 4, 2013
Adler and Co.
77 Geary Street, Suite 201
San Francisco, CA
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10:30 to 5:30, Saturdays, 11 to 5