Berlin: Brent Wadden

Pamela Kort, Artforum, October 1, 2013

Working on a back-strap loom, this young Canadian artist intertwines acrylic yarns with handspun wools that he then stitches together and finally mounts on raw canvas. The large-scale works that result are more than simply intriguing: They take to task all kinds of preconceptions about painting. For starters, they brazenly refuse conventional distinctions between so-called “folk art” and “high art” practice. These works flaunt their indebtedness to indigenous traditions of artmaking, particularly those from the coast of Nova Scotia, where Wadden grew up. Initially just as important to him was the heritage of Abstract Expressionism. Remember the description of Jackson Pollock as “systematically weaving” his images “into an impenetrable web of lines and dribbles” so as to deliberately veil them? Steven W. Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s biography of Pollock was popular in the 1990s, just as Wadden came of age as a painter; twenty years later, he seems to have returned to this intriguing notion, applying its consequences to his own technique of working.