Barbara Takenaga’s distinctive works, recognizable by their obsessive patterns of circles, spirals, and pinwheels painstakingly rendered in controlled, yet surprising hues, have been described in contradictory language that can become as dizzying as the paintings themselves. They are often understood in terms of both the figurative and abstract, the religious and the scientific, the mathematical and the psychedelic, the conceptual and the decorative. Referencing both the “high” and the “low,” they have inspired comparisons to cosmic explosions, aquatic creatures, microscopic visions, fractal patterns, sci-fi landscapes, Venetian beads, and new-age mandalas. On a formal level, the artist is engaged with opposites: surface and depth, darkness and light, flatness and dimensionality, stasis and movement. It is this state of dualism – or perhaps we might call it possibility – that lends the paintings both a certain tension and an expansiveness of association that echoes the boundlessness of their formal and visual structure.
Each work, whether small or large (they range in size from 12 x 10 inches to 54 x 90 inches), could, ostensibly, expand indefinitely in all directions, extending beyond the edges of its individual support. Their radiating pattern of lines and dots act much like Daniel Buren’s iconic compositions and site-specific installations of repeated, vertical bands which metaphorically and visually link his works to their context while removing any hierarchy from the composition. Despite their unbridled, flamboyant appearance, Takenaga’s paintings have a strong tie to the works of conceptual artists of the 1960s like Buren, and, in particular, the late Sol LeWitt whose working strategies have influenced Takenaga’s own. Like LeWitt, whose wall drawings are created using a pre-determined system and a limited color palette, Takenaga works within a similarly constrained set of criteria. Her images, like LeWitt’s, generate countless iterations through both repetition and chance.
Susan Cross, March 2009
DC Moore Catalog Essay