‘The Importance of Line’ intersects aesthetics and ideas at Anderson Ranch

Current exhibition features emerging, established abstract artists

"The Importance of Line" displays the brightly-colored works of Rico Gatson and subdued hues of Andrea Santos' art at Anderson Ranch Arts Center through Aug. 27.
Roshni Gorur/Courtesy photo

What: “The Importance of Line” featuring Andrea Santos and Rico Gatson

When: Now through Aug. 27

Where: Anderson Ranch Arts Center Patton-Malott Gallery

More Info:

Abstract artist Andrea Santos has been spending a lot of time thinking about grids — the ways in which lines intersect on a canvas as much as in day-to-day life, she said in a virtual interview last week.

“It’s something that is so ubiquitous: It is in our architecture, it’s in our computer screens. It’s everywhere around us, and it’s something that’s kind of invisible,” she said. “But over time, it’s so powerful. … I was thinking about space in those terms. And just that contradiction between something that can be so powerful, but kind of invisible and something we live with in our daily lives.”

It’s a fitting train of thought for the emerging creator whose works are on display alongside those of the established abstract artist Rico Gatson in “The Importance of Line” at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village through Aug. 27.

Both artists pay close attention to linear intersection in their work, though in distinctly different ways: Santos, the emerging artist, takes a minimalist approach with subdued colors and textured layers; Gatson, the established artist, uses bold, bright hues and hard-line geometric shapes.

Gatson and Santos also teach workshops at the ranch this summer. Gatson’s session, a mixed-media program titled “Merging Abstraction with Representation,” was held the last week of July and Santos’ textile surface design session runs throughout this week.

For Santos, the notion of the grid is as much a historical one as an aesthetic one. There are those ties to screens and architecture and land use but also to the practice of using grids in the artmaking process. (Sometimes those intersections are the product, too; Santos cited as an example the “imperfectly perfect” works of painter Agnes Martin, whose body of work includes extensive interpretations of grid and line.)

“It kind of dominates art history, and thinking about learning about drawing, you first draw out those grid lines to do drafting. … If you look at my work closely, you’ll see there are actually lines, there are grid lines there,” Santos said. A closer look also reveals multiple layers of material on some works; the buildup to the surface becomes part of the piece, she said.

Gatson, too, explores history in his art — namely, significant moments in Black history and culture. As he creates, he processes those moments thematically; the works are not necessarily a literal representation of an event but rather a symbolic one depressed through “color, pattern, rhythm, beauty,” he said.

“The paintings become emblems of specific things that I’m thinking about. … It’s really just a matter of trying to create work that both is specific but also abstract,” Gatson said.

The scope is wide-reaching, even within a single work. Gatson suggested that one piece, a rainbow-like arc, may remind the viewer of biblical imagery of a great flood and it may conjure a connection to James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” the title of that text itself a reference to a selection in the Bible.

Or it may not spark either of those connections in some viewers, at least not right away.

“Will the viewer come to that piece or that series to connect those two things? But maybe through some of the other work they’ll start to make the connections,” Gatson said.

Gatson uses a layered approach to this historical context intended to create “clear access points” for the viewer to begin traveling along that train of thought.

But even those without the context will still be able to draw that line from piece to piece.

“The thing that ties it together is hopefully the aesthetics, the beauty,” he said.