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Andrea Way


New Paintings: "Triple Treasure"

EXHIBITION: November 2 - December 1, 2001

The Marsha Mateyka Gallery is pleased to announce its third solo exhibition for the remarkable artist, Andrea Way. This exhibition introduces several new concepts as well as reintroduces an earlier image of interlocking puzzle pieces - explored by the artist in the mid ninety's. All of these new works feature the meticulous layering and exceptional range of color from saturated hues to delicate pastel films, for which she is well known.

When asked to discuss her paintings, the artist says "The only way I can talk about any of my work is to tell you how I made it". An avid practitioner of Zen meditation and an equally devoted admirer of the natural sciences, Andrea Way finds meaning through the way in which she works - sometimes visualizing spiritual principles, other times paralleling natural processes. Continuing the investigations of the "Gravity Pools" series from the last four years, all of the works begin with the action of ink dropped into shaped pools of water or into one large pool covering the entire surface. The artist loves this thin, delicate and unpredictable surface which she can then slowly develop through multiple layering.

In these new works, as in her previous work, intuition and intellect are combined through the juxtaposition of the pooling ink with intricate patterns based on counting systems within a grid. The artist's work has also returned to overall color field and pattern, which on closer inspection reveals constantly reversing layers, giving the sense of many events happening at once. In several works, this reversal is based on one unit replicating itself in its neighbor, reversing color and contrast. In all of the new work, the two main themes, concerning self and finding "the answer", are visualized as individual parts inseparable from the whole.

To many people, Andrea Way's images evoke natural phenomena. Therefore, it is not surprising that her work is often selected to accompany scientific articles in THE SCIENCES, the magazine of the New York Academy of Sciences. The artist's works have been exhibited widely in gallery and museum exhibitions throughout the country for twenty years. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of many major museums, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Phillips Collectionand the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

October, 2002, p. 168

"Andrea Way at Marsha Mateyka" by Joe Shannon

If you could only see Andrea Way's intricate ink-and-acrylic-on-wood peices from a distance of, say, 12 feet, you would be in for major deprivation and frustration. What are you looking at? City maps? Wiring layouts? Computer schematics? Well, as you mover closer to the delicate and multilayered paintings ( a perfect distance is arm's length ), the shimmering rewards become apparent. While the largest are 24 by 32 inches, most are half that size.

"Original Self" ( 2000 ), is set on a blue field; meandering blue lines encircle organic blobs of various sizes. These dark, cloudy shapes appear to be mushrooms seen from below. Or mushroom clouds; very mysterious. Layered over these shapes are constellations of large white dots. The result is lyrical and beautiful. The show included works from an ongoing series that the artist calls "Gravity Pools". She starts these lovely images by dropping colored ink into pools of water on the support surface. However, after the application of many additional layers, the final image can be very schematic and geometric.

The newest work in the show- geometric and, if possible, even more intricately structured- contains magic of a different kind. The summarizing and climactic "Deconstructing Treasure" ( 2001 ) presents two patterns of interlocking bars and dashes in varied blues that alternate in a grid across the panel. The obsessive mosaic of tiny rectangles confirms the dogged determination and patience required to construct Way's fields of geometric precision and invention. "Two Trees" ( 2001 ) is a tangled array of green and white shapes; a swarm of amoebalike structures is interrupted by gray-black bays and peninsulas. But there is another element: humor. As you are enjoying the lovely interplay of the elements, suddenly you cannot help smiling as you discover a delineated overlay of interlocking jigsaw-puzzle shapes. There are several of these amusing and, at the same time, amazing works in the exhibition.

The Washington Post
"The Inviting Depths of Andrea Way's Pools"
by Ferdinand Protzman
Thursday, March 23, 2000, p. C5

Exploring the tension inherent between system and chance is normally the province of theoretical physicists and serous gamblers. But that dichotomy, summarized, with apologies to Albert Einstein, as God either playing dice or not, is also a driving element in contemporary abstract painting. And no painter drives it faster or further than Andrea Way.

In her exhibition of new paintings at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Way puts the metaphysical pedal to systemic metal by enmeshing her "gravity pools", made by dropping ink into pools of water, in a broad range of colors and code-based imagery. The resulting constellation of work spans remarkable extremes: from barely discernible starlight to full sun; from wisps of black and white to rich primary colors; from Abraham Lincoln's profile to the inexorable, amorphous sweep of intergalactic tides.

Way first displayed the uncontrollable, unpredictable beauty and mesmerizing evocative power that can emerge from the gravity pols in her previous exhibition in late 1998. The pools were the stars of that show, dominating all the imagery around them. It was also a much more monochromatic affair than the current exhibition.

In the new paintings, Way has made many of the pools smaller and integrated them more closely into the geometric patterns - lines, dots, stripes and bars, all based on a set of rules or code, of her own devising - that swirl around them. This creates a fascinating, musical interplay, a kind of ethereal them and variation, between the unknown but knowable - the code - and the unfathomable logic and visual depth of pools.

But these paintings are also more approachable than their predecessors because Way has reduced their complexity. She has scaled back the number of systems at work in any given piece and added representational elements such as leaves and coins and warmer, brighter colors to the mix.

Some of the paintings, such as "Spider Pool" - a red, white and black round dance of rays, lines and spots emanating from a radiant crimson nucleus - possess a kind of fundamental, subatomic force, as if they were depicting activity in the cosmic soup tureen about 10 seconds before the Big Bang. That kind of scientific imagery is something that has long been part of Way's painting.

But others, such as "Pooling Leaves" which is made from eucalyptus leaves, and "The Lincoln Pools" include easily recognizable imagery. In the latter case, it's Honest Abe's craggy profile as it appears on the one-cent piece.

"The Lincoln Pools" is a large grid made up of boxes just big enough to hold a penny. Way placed each penny face down in the box, then added water and let the resulting oxidation of the coin's copper create the image. In some instances, that method produced an amazingly pristine likeness of our 16th president. In others, he's just a black smudge tinged with sickly green. Way then colored the squares with subtle pastel washes.

It's a poetic, meditative piece with a combination of narrative undertone and metaphoric richness that is rare for Way. The repetitive use of such an iconic image serves as a visual mantra, focusing the viewer's thoughts on Lincoln. His honesty, intelligence, eloquence and perseverance seem to be freed by the chemical reaction of the pools, as if the innate qualities of Lincoln the man were transcending Lincoln the cultural image.

Those attributes and that transcendence stand in marked contrast to what we've come to expect from contemporary politicians. The notion of a man rising above himself for the greater good is reinforced in serendipitous fashion in the upper right corner of the picture, where one penny got knocked off center, leaving its imprint in the wrong place, the border between two boxes. It was a mistake, a random act, a breakdown of the system. And it's perfect. Lincoln floating toward the ceiling, like a cloud climbing a sunbeam to some better place.

Maybe, as Einstein frequently opined in regard to quantum theory, "God doesn't play dice". By Andrea Way certainly does and she came up a winner by betting that plan and happenstance would make powerfully unruly but ultimately compatible bedfellows. Andrea Way, at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St., NW, Wednesday - Saturday, 11 am - 5 pm, 202 328-0088, through April 1.

The Washington Post
Thursday, September 17, 1998
GALLERIES, by Ferdinand Protzman
Arts Section, p. D5

"The Force is With Her, ' Gravity Pool ', Andrea Way's Explorations of Evolution"

The central element of Andrea Way's terrific exhibition of new paintings and prints at Marsha Mateyka Gallery is simplicity itself: a drop of ink plunked into a small pool of water, which is then allowed to dry. From that basic event - random, often prodigious and analogous to the first step in biological evolution or the creation of human life - Way has created a visually, intellectually and emotionally compelling body of abstract artwork.

The show, titled "Gravity Pools", is Way;'s first in Washington since 1995, and it was worth the wait. The gravity pool inkblots are woven into intricate systems of lines and shapes and patterns, kaleidoscopic Rorschach tests, open to endless interpretation, constantly shifting to reflect the viewer's psychological state and imagination.

In "Holy Tree", a painting in ink and acrylic on birch plywood, Way has placed a large gravity pool in the center of the panel. Concentric rings of tiny pools surround that central image. The black blotch in the middle can seem like a black hole, sucking up matter at the end of an interstellar tunnel. But it also looks like an aerial view from directly above the crown of a great miraculous tree surrounded by a grove of followers.

There is also tremendous variation among the inkblots in terms of their shape, color and texture. Some have representational qualities, resembling an angel with wings spread, a female figure, or an X-ray of a human cranium. Others could be wisps of smoke or a sooty smudge. One will be pitch black, another the palest gray. In the painting "Rising Pools," their surface has a Plasticine sheen. The pools in "Biological States" look dull and rough.

The geometric aspect - the circles, lines and shapes - make the pools seem like a series of random events taking place within the context of a system or code. That serves as a powerful metaphor for the ongoing evolution for the universe, which is exactly what Way set out to try to depict when she began making abstract art.

"This body of work started in 1981, when I got the notion that I could make a crude attempt to make work the way life is made", Way says. "What I wanted to do was create things based on systems and codes, the DNA strands of all life. The work is about what is the nature of being in existence. It's an endless question, because evolution doesn't stop."

The new works are far less colorful than the group of paintings she exhibited at David Adamson Gallery in 1995, but they have the same kind of fine-boned, intricately connected detail that gives Way's art a uniquely lyrical feel. Her paintings and works on paper have been collected by a number of major museums, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Museum of American Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Way says she wasn't consciously trying to get away from color. "I started out just playing with materials. I've always done that in a very organic way", she says. ":I was dropping ink into water and letting it dry on paper. My big concern was that the surface was level, so the ink would go wherever it would, without my influence."

The results fascinated Way. Then, in a literature class she was taking, she came across a line in a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke from his "Book of Hours": "surely gravity's law, strong as an ocean current, takes hold of the smallest thing and pulls it to the heart of the world."

"I realized, gee, I'm working with gravity, " Way recalls. "And that thrilled me. Gravity is such a major force. It's one of the greatest mysteries of the universe. How does it work? Why is there gravity? After that I began experimenting with ways to make the gravity pools deeper. I did some on Mylar and then I tried them on plywood and really liked the results."

Way says the nature of her creativity is partly due to her lifestyle. "Invention has never been a problem for me. The ideas just keep coming", she says. "I'm a resourceful and frugal person because I don't have enough money., I live from my art and I have to make every penny count. When you live like that , you invent out of necessity, as the saying goes".

Over the past three years, the 48-year-old artist has divided her time between her apartment here and the San Francisco Bay area, where she often lives in a Zen monastery.

That bi-coastal life has given Way, one of the most consistently interesting and innovative artists working in geometric abstraction in America, an inordinately low profile on the local art scene. She was excluded from one recent group exhibition of top abstract artist from the Washington area on the grounds that she no longer lived her. Rumors spread that she had left town for good.

"I kept hearing that," she has. "But it isn't so. Maybe it's because when I'm here I tend to keep to myself and just work. Doing the work is the most important thing for me. I play with materials like a very crude scientist. There's really a sense of investigating rather than any idea of self-expression. So I don't have the ego attachment that some artists have to their work. That I make them and people like them and sometimes actually buy them, well, that just amazes me.