YVONNE ESTRADA: BLUE
LD20-11 Blue. Gouache, watercolor, graphite on paper 60 x 41 in.
Yvonne Estrada collects forms from nature. Towards the entrance of her Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio, one can find a glass vitrine, in which she stores some of her most valued objects: a bird’s nest, a rare beetle, an ancient stone flute found at shore, a bone, a piece of natural black chalk. This interest in nature’s expressiveness and its wealth of mysterious detail resonate strongly in Estrada’s work. Though not rendering specifics, her vocabulary springs from — and always channels — nature.
Estrada works from memory rather than from book illustrations or photographs (although “Gray’s Anatomy” is occasionally consulted for details about muscle and bone structure). An abstract artist, she is not interested in reproductions as a pictorial source or rendering something as realistic as possible. Along these lines, Estrada keeps her works Untitled (and numbered) to avoid directing associations. Her process is intuitive and guided by the subconscious. “I often start with stains and gestures and the work develops as a response to what happens on the page.” When looking at several of Estrada’s compositions, one recognizes a few repeating forms evocative of large petals, strings of seed-like globes or balls of rolled up hair. In the context of her oeuvre, they are familiar protagonists rather than a clear set of symbols. She explains, “Any repetition has to do with my fascination with the organic shapes that are everywhere, such as floating leaves in a tree or dried grape stems flattened by traffic on the street. My impulse has always been to synthesize the shapes that I see — but they are filtered through memory.”
Though Estrada’s touch is delicate, her gestures can range from finely nuanced to bold. In her compositions she employs the dynamism of contrasts to maximum effect. The interplay between minute detail and broad mark-making — as well as between translucence and opacity — are at the core of each work. It is this consistent push and pull between dense clusters of information and areas of lightness that defines Estrada’s rhythm.
In her newest works on paper, Estrada embraces the dominance of a specific color. This focus on palette in a body of work marks a departure for the artist. The show reflects this in its simple, yet poignant title “Blue.” However, the shades that this series is based on are far from arbitrary.
“The blues I used in this group are ultramarine, which is very intense, and cobalt. They are very similar except for that the former is darker and more pigmented. I always wanted to work with architectural blueprints, as I love their powdery, purplish blue lines. In some ways these works reflect my affinity for these documents.”
In Estrada’s hands, ultramarine and cobalt are hardly reminiscent of blues found in the landscape. Instead, they are electric — as if lit up from within by an artificial light source. However, in context with the overall composition, they aid in crystallizing the organic elements to stunning effect. By enveloping, veiling, partially covering or receding behind biomorphic shapes evocative of algae growth, cells, or nerve strings, for example, Estrada’s blues provide them with a sense of urgency.
For “Blue,” Estrada increasingly worked with gouache, a heavily pigmented medium that dries fast. She applies the paint with fine brushes instead of broad strokes, building up many layers of lines into vibrant fields of color. “Building up multiple layers reminds me of slowly growing plant forms. In that sense my works grow organically.” She further employs ballpoint pen, pencil and graphite in her works.
LD15-10Blue. Watercolor, gouache, ballpoint pen, graphite on paper 50 x 38 in.
One constant in Estrada’s work is the use of large areas of white paper as a background — serving as a neutral stage, on which each mark stands out with utter clarity.
In “Blue,” the concentration on a specific palette signifies both a thorough contemplation and a self-imposed restriction. The challenge is to seek variety through subtleties. In that regard, Estrada relates to two artists she greatly admires: Sol LeWitt and Isamu Noguchi. She as well aspires to find utmost expressiveness through the careful consideration of line in space. To her, there is elegance in simplicity.
Estrada’s process needs time. Each large work takes about six months to a year to complete. Like a piece of music or writing, Estrada’s works have their own rhythm and story to tell. “The process is labor-intensive I can only work on one piece for so long,” she explains. “I like to work on several pieces at the same time to avoid becoming goal-oriented and obsessive. I often need to put a piece aside sometimes for weeks or even months so I can forget about it, detach and brake it open mercilessly when I return to it. It is ultimately a process of creation and destruction.”
Estrada grew up in Bogotá, Colombia. She left for New York at nineteen and has spent most of her life in big cities. While her forms might feel like an antidote to urbanity, the complexity of her arrangements abstractly reflect the eclectic currents of a metropolitan environment. Her elements seem to be linked by an invisible web. They associate with, overlap, merge with and separate from each other ceaselessly.
“Blue” will be Estrada’s first New York solo exhibition in almost ten years. For her personally and the world at large, it has been a tumultuous decade. Her work in all its vibrancy, careful consideration and meditative clarity, offers a place of quietude. At times her intertwined forms translate as a metaphor for the infinite possibilities of paths to take, relationships to have and roads to travel. Her work serves as a reminder that everything springs from nature and that everything is linked together.