Surface Tension
Savage Art Resources, 1430 SE Third, opening reception: December 3, from 5-8 pm; exhibit runs through December 31

People used to get excited about abstract art, and I mean excited like a housewife at a taping of Oprah's Favorite Things. Somewhere between Cubism and Pop people thought abstract painting might change the world, or at least art. Clement Greenberg said it would "overpower the medium to the point where all sense of its resistance disappears, and the adventitious uses of art become more important." Yves Klein was so thrilled with a shade of blue that he made a whole painting with it--a perfect blue square--then he leapt off the side of a building.

A long story, how this search for the essentials of painting deteriorated into today's battle between neo-hippy laziness and decorative non-art, but it's not without hope. There are still artists walking the tightrope between the disposable and the derivative, and a couple of them can be viewed this week at Savage Art Resources' Surface Tension.

Two of the artists, Doug Morris and Aaron Van Dyke, flirt with the boundaries of painting itself. Van Dyke places stripes of acrylic color over white fabric with floral pattern cutouts. In one untitled work, so much fabric has been cut away that the stripes are all that hold the work together. Morris calls himself a painter, but uses repetitive shapes constructed of paper, foam and ribbon, to create three-dimensional, delicately patterned abstractions. He appears to challenge the idea of painting by using no paint, choosing instead to "paint" with tiny objects and the empty spaces between them.

The standout of the show is Jacin Giordano, a young painter from Miami who harnesses his craft as a kind of assembled collage consisting of yarn, glitter, glue and fragmented strips of paint. His two paintings in the show provide a colorful collision of romanticism and precision, fitting because they were loosely based on John Keats' reaction to Isaac Newton's scientific breakdown of rainbows. I kept returning to "Light as Air, Heavy as Sin," inspecting its plastic detail and then stepping back to take in its pink-infused, controlled chaos. It's a perfect representation of the show's title, and just maybe, something you can get excited about.