For my first exhibition I’m especially pleased to bring you the work of an artist I have followed for over a decade - catching his impressive shows in both San Francisco and Paris. His unusual career includes a role as dancer with the Jose Limon Company (1957), his first painting shows in Montreal and Boston, creating a painting studio in San Francisco (1964) where he also contributed to the underground film scene. He directed two avant-guard feature films in the 70’s and is also known as an innovator in opera, one of the first to combine film and projection in theater. He is also known as an educator - his SF Art & Film for Teenagers, is dedicated to inspiring young people to experience all the arts and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
But it is as a painter I find his work the most inspiring.
It’s hard to think of Chase as a minimalist, though his work in the last ten years reflects many minimal influences. His concentration on the grid pattern has been constant, though there are variations of size and shape,. Some of the works gain strength from the play of sold versus fluid elements. Grids are often constructed to suggest the sides of ancient walls, bulging or contracting with wear. The result is often like a bas-relief, but in the same composition pattern can disappear with a suggestion of decay, whether it suggests rain or damage over time. Everywhere there is a focus on contrast – solid and liguid; darkness and light; decay and suggested renewal.
The grid patterns are often used to organize three dimensional shapes created by layers of underpainting, forming patterns one on the other. The constant play of constructed and fluid space allows the eye to linger or be lost in the subtle details. His interest in what he has referred to as “ the patina that nature and decay create over time” is reflected in many different ways. In some of the work, the grid motif is interrupted by lines of bright red, suggesting arteries, in others, the grid seems to be the outlines of shapes holding the composition in place, or ghost-like reflections of something erased from memory. In complex white works the patterns created by pencil, crayon, paint & plaster move back and forth in space, always stimulating the eye with new pockets of energy.
The large watercolors were begun in 2014, inspired by childhood memories of collecting specimens from nature. They, too, are ordered into grids, but some playfully mix the shapes Chase has often referred to as “essential geometry” --the square, rectangle, circle and triangle. Their influence from nature allows the viewer to imagine what they might be- the watercolor technique allows the shapes simultaneously to be both transparent, enigmatic and evocative.
A series of small collages in his “White” series—work I especially value. They are, in contrast to the enormous paintings, very intimate and delicate, almost like visual poems - small compositions of paper, writing, old stamps, etc. set in large negative spaces. White on white on white --they show another side of this remarkable imagination.