By Lyric Prince, www.sugarcanemagazine.com
Morton Fine Art, a gallery that is off to the side of the U Street Corridor in Washington D.C., fills in a niche for vibrant artists of color that are pushing boundaries and expectations on art and its potential. Mixed-media installation artist Amber Robles-Gordon's solo exhibition Third Eye Open, which closes on May 20th, was comprised of 8 assemblages produced in 2018, and presented the meeting between the physical world and the intuition of human experience. The chosen forms of the show – circles and ovum – alluded to the ongoing cycle of inserting and patterning elements for self-discovery, incubation, and introspection. Throughout, Robles-Gordon explored abstract art's potential for demonstrating spiritual growth and emotional connection on a metaphorically cosmic scale – where the rules of time and gravity fall to the wayside.
On April 7th, during her Porter Colloquium talk at alma-mater Howard University, Robles-Gordon explained the crux of her practice: discovering the intersection of meaning, gradiation, and materiality for healing as well as identifying the energies that animates us all. Moreover, she feels that “[m]aking art connects me to my inner self, [and] …a higher power.” At Morton, the artist connected with her ongoing series of work that discusses the therapeutic uses of art, as well as how to discover room for body and soul in an often-indifferent world.
In the show, Robles-Gordon manipulated the dimensions of height, width, and depth in unexpected ways. Each circle filled up to 4 feet in diameter of 2-D space, contrasting with the minuscule amount that they jut from the walls – in an interesting twist, the materials with the greatest variety of texture efficiently claims, at most, 2" of depth. One can best see this detail with the mesh surface of a satellite section surrounding the larger circle on display (entitled Kepler 19b and Orbit).
It and similar elements challenged the shine and detail of the wide tile-like black paper layer, that had glossy medium lovingly brushed over each piece. Patterns of flowers and stripes, in bright variation of pink, zigzagged their way around the interior of Synchronous Dialogue, Bloom, and Orbits, encompassing an ever-evolving round of pattern, vibrant shade, precious gold and finally, light.
Throughout another piece, named The Eyes of God, nature called out to the universe through the positioning of plantlike elements, two whirling asteroids of pigment and material, nestled inside of a fertile tiled earth of gleaming black.
With Kepler 19c Super Earth and Orbit, an all-seeing eye of completion surrounded the alternating layers of fabric, painting, and form, making the center of a tiny universe feel a lot like love itself. Overall, the collection seemed to teach the viewers the lesson of unity in all living things; their consciousness, their physicality, and their ultimate potential.
In her Howard presentation, Robles-Gordon said, “I believe color and light have healing properties, and each color has a level of energy. I associate colors with both masculine and feminine energies… that exists in nature. Therefore, when I work with color, I work with nature.” Her atypical restraint of coloring in the new collection lent extra room for arrangement, experimentation, and surprise with the supporting elements. There was a light sash for one smaller circle, fragments of beaded necklace for another, black lace on royal blue background for one, or a simple strand of thread wrapped around a carefully placed pattern of fabric in another. Within the variety, there was a new place and unique symbolism for her self-expression. We saw a glimpse of the original purpose of the fabrics that she utilized in the artwork's construction, their previous incarnations of a less glamorous life; and by reusing them, she filled them with a new sense of purpose and physicality. “Through creating,” she explained, “I express points of recycling that reuse energy [as well as] materials.”
Through the abstract nature of her work, viewers are free to interpret specific meanings of their own. Also, we are encouraged to embrace the subjectivity and mutable nature of our individual truth – all the while holding onto that final determination as a beautiful and treasured thing. Everything in the show was a snapshot of a realization, composed of many different thoughts, feelings, and items that combine into a personally learned lesson. They also displayed the unity of gendered elements -- the soft circle and the masculine branch -- under the overarching mantle of humanity, a self-aware part of the cosmos. Physical space can’t limit her artwork’s interpretations or potential, nor minimize the size and daring of the ideas that they dare to express.
“Throughout my career,” Robles-Gordon shared, “I have [often] been the only woman artist… [or person of color] in a meeting room or gallery, [and] I have felt the price of claiming space that others may not have intended for this Black girl. [...] I've had to cultivate, occupy, and demand space within this industry of [collectors, administrators, researchers], making whomever aware of my existence.” Making others aware, however, is different from allowing them to define her existence in the first place. Third Eye Open ultimately encouraged the viewer to not judge the artist, but to look inside and pluck the moat from their own eyes first.