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Courtesy of the Artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York

Sonia Almeida, Red Signal, 2013; Oil on marine plywood, red LEDS; 60 x 90 in.

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By Sonia Almeida

LIST Visual Art Center

Now on Display

Sonia Almeida, a local artist originally hailing from Portugal, created the works displayed in the LIST Visual Arts Center to examine the contrast between how we experience color and our scientific understanding of the theories of color (though I’m not sure I would have figured that out without reading the wall text in the exhibit). This theme was expressed with varying complexity throughout the exhibit, as some of the paintings featured simple gradients while others used wide contrasts of hues and forms to speak to the interplay between art and science. While some of the compositions successfully questioned the separation between my understanding and experience of color, a few of the works missed this mark.

One of the highlights of my visit was the set of sketchbooks quietly displayed along one of the walls. More than any other work, these delved into how art and science speak to each other by giving a glimpse of the artist’s method. I could see some of the remnants of trial and error in her preliminary blueprints for pieces, reminding me of the scientific process. In particular, these sketchbooks gave insight into the various ways Almeida considered shape and color when constructing a painting, which helped reinforce the idea that there are contrasting ways to approach these concepts.

A couple of paintings did not deliver on that promise. Two of the centerpieces of the exhibition, “Dismantling Pi” and “Stacking Pi,” were particularly unsatisfying. By including references to the famous mathematical symbol in these works, it feels like Almeida is forcing science into the art rather than juxtaposing the two concepts naturally. These two works definitely felt more random and disjoint than the other pieces in the collection and simply took the focus away from the more effective pieces.

One of the successes was the largest painting in the hall, entitled “Red Signal” (pictured). While it invokes the idea of infinity with a Mobius-like band, the idea is subtle enough that it does not take away from my enjoyment of the overall work. Additionally, the subtle battle in the background of the piece between two primary colors serves the theme of the exhibit well while also providing a nice contrast with the stark shapes that dominate the foreground. All in all, this is a painting that has the right amount of complexity, and it kept me interested without becoming overwhelming.

While not a particularly large exhibit, occupying only a couple of rooms in the gallery, this selection features plenty of visually stimulating works. While all of the works are oil paintings on plywood, they exhibit a range of colors and styles. The only downside is that this range comes with a similar variety of success. Still, it is definitely worth walking across Ames to check out this addition to the LIST Collection before it is too late.