Cat Balco “No Seed Unsung”

Rick Wester Fine Art

poster for Cat Balco “No Seed Unsung”
[Image: Cat Balco "Red Yellow Set" (2021) Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 in.]

This event has ended.

I believe in those wing’d purposes,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,
And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional,
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else,
And the jay in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

For her second solo exhibition at RWFA, the gallery presents paintings by Cat Balco executed over the past two years while sheltering at home. In the early days of the pandemic Balco, in search of inspiration, became intrigued with her “color test strips” - the index cards she paints on for judging her pigments. From these she garnered the seeds of what would become her next body of work, considering her studio practice to consist “only of looking at these strips” and learning “to admire them - the bluntness of the brush marks, the way each color held its own, and the way the unintentional compositions reminded [me] of Dada and New York abstract painting experiments in the 1970’s.” The strips became sources for her subsequent paintings, of which she says: “The pandemic changed the world for me in ways I never thought it could be changed. My strategies of critique and judgement, the ways I try to make things better, seemed outdated and out of sync both in my personal life and in the studio. Instead of working towards improvement I began to focus on softening, accepting, and welcoming what is. I became less critical; at the same time, I began to notice more.”

In a similar fashion to her first solo exhibition in 2019, My Exploding Stars, Balco has once again revised her approach to abstraction, introducing elements that playfully toy with representative form. Simultaneously expanding upon some of the innovations she developed for the previous body of work, she also pushed the reductive editing of her past methods. Here, the democracy of the square has been augmented by a tense drama of rectangular canvases: stage sets for theaters of color. The paintings still feature the thick impasto of poured acrylic and her push broom brushstrokes, relying on the adjacency of forms creating hints of deepening space through overlapping swaths of color in an expanded palette. Her use of primary colors is more modal now, allowing earthier tones and more neutral grounds to swirl about, subtly alluding to the desire to be outside, stepping on soil, after over a year of confinement. Balco paints in her studio in Connecticut, a freestanding structure separate from her home and living quarters. Nestled just outside is her husband’s wildflower garden where the painter would often retreat to for fresh air and inspiration. At night, the constellation Orion, shone brightly in the suburban sky space above her studio door.

The eight paintings in No Seed Unsung showcase subtly organic forms, a broader and secondary color palette, and a new vocabulary of marks. A descendant of European immigrants who achieved the “American Dream’, Balco remains engaged with specifically American painting traditions, including American Modernism, Abstract Expressionism, and even Colonial Trompe L’oeil. As with her previous works, Balco continues to paint with janitors’ brooms, connecting painting with the humble labor of sweeping and referring to her working-class roots. She continues to feature broad open color fields and bold and ecstatic marks, evoking Whitman’s wide-open joyfulness.



from November 13, 2021 to January 15, 2022

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