Katherine Mann’s solo show Slurry is currently open in the Rice Gallery at McDaniel College. It might be surprising to hear that the entire exhibit consists of just four paintings, but with two of them taking over most of the space in the room and the other two offering just as much to discover within their architecturally layered details there is an abundance of work to become immersed in. These maximalist paintings build abstracted figurative decorations on top of initial Sumi ink stains that have the gestural feel of nature when it is left uncontrolled and free to grow as it pleases. The top layers are taken from objects such as ribbons and flowers that are representative of beauty but then repeated and highly manipulated in such a way that they are not immediately recognizable.
When you walk in either entrance to the gallery, it is the 25-foot long painting, Weft, that catches your eye with its oxblood red ink stains and unsaturated green ribbon bodies stretching across the wall like a family of hammocks. You can walk right up to the painting and become enraptured within all of its intricate cut outs and finely painted details hidden among this consuming landscape.
It is Mann’s newest work, however, that is the most exciting of all when looking back at her oeuvre. Slurry breaks away from the rectangular confines of the paper with its amoeba shaped cut edges and even slips off the gallery walls from which it is hung and onto the floor. This piece was designed as site specific for the Rice Gallery and with the intent to take it over with its black ribbon tentacles and stains. It invades the viewer’s walking space and forces him or her to walk interact with it by watching where it spills, covering almost half of the width of the room, and being careful of their step. The details of the ink stains are stunning and seem to emulate nature’s patterns, most surprisingly that of a crystalline geode split in half. Any color within this primarily monochromatic form is subtly infused within the throngs of ribbon in splotches of lilac, mauve, or teal.
These are all paintings that you must spend time with and closely examine to truly appreciate their complexities. If you look close enough you can even discover imprints of skin that, whether they were intentional or not, suggest the painting’s full immersion of the artist or viewer into its space.
– Hannah Matthews