Heaven by Jodi Hays

Art of the Week

The term “abstract expressionism” has come to describe visual art that appears wildly chaotic, as in Pollock’s splattered canvases, as well as work that seems regimentally organized, as in Rothko’s studies in color palette. The flaw (and perhaps beauty) of art movement terminology is that it attempts to group work that, in the most significant ways, defies grouping.

But if a label has to be affixed to the work in Jodi Hays’ exhibition “Tend,” on view at Red Arrow Gallery until September 7, abstract expressionism might be appropriate. Not least because of the way her paintings embrace both of the aforementioned extremes of the movement simultaneously.

In Heaven, for instance, a grid of black is interrupted and embraced by stripes and shapes of many colors — the strict lines we might associate with a Rothko are barely containing the more freeform movements of a Pollock. This use of regimentation, and an emphasis on defying it, is constant throughout the pieces in the show.

“These systems (grids) become a scaffold for pictorial inclinations,” the gallery explained. “Stripes generate a placement in pattern, repetition and seriality. Textiles, associated with warmth, the body, pattern, domesticity and weave (stripes) inform this work, as do fragmentary shapes that are plant-like or jaggedly organic, bringing the ‘outside’ into the studio. Hard-edged shapes exist with more rounded/floral moves.”

The ultimate effect that this interplay has on viewers and as an overarching statement about the longevity of the work itself is powerful.

“The way I see my paintings is like how a folded map relates to a pocket, holding potential to be a locative device, to consider consequences and ask questions,” Hays says of her own work, per a statement shared by the gallery. “This exhibition asks what it can mean to care for and remain attentive in painting, revealing how my core iconography elucidates a conversation on abstraction and a generative, inexhaustible mark.”

Hays is based in Nashville and has exhibited her work across the country, including at the Boston Center for the Arts and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She has received awards from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in fine arts from the Vermont College of Fine Art.

Red Arrow Gallery is located at 919 Gallatin Avenue, Suite #4, in East Nashville.

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