Los Angeles Times
by Leah Ollman April 16, 1999
By LEAH OLIMAN
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Kristin Leachman isn’t the only artist who feminizes the hard edges of the Miniimalist grid, but she does so with an earnestness unusual among her peers. Leachman’s vibrantly beautiful paintings at Newspace appear from a distance to be hooked and braided rugs hanging on the wall. Painted “braided” stripes of color meander down each panel in a consistent pattern, but with all the lumpy irregularity of plaited yam or fabric. It’s a gentle homage to the handworked rug, and Leachman weaves into it a quiet nostalgia that feels refreshingly free of irony.
Two of the three large paintings hanging in the main gallery “Rhyme and Reason” and “Bird in Hand” bear titles that bring to mind the truisms on needlework samplers. The third, “Field and Stream,” conjures another slice of mainstream Americana, through a luminous, shimmering orchestra of color. Like variegated yam, the colors braided into rows in the painting continually vary in intensity, creating a seductive, ever shifting surface.
Leachman’s pencil drawings also evoke the padded softness of braided rugs, but more ambiguously. The individual pencil lines double as strands of hair, transforming the rug surface into a poetically inspired field of braided tresses. Leachman’s technique is meticulous and exquisite. In a few of the drawings, it reveals itself in areas where the pattern is outlined but not filled in or fleshed out. The predictability of the pattern offers the reassurance of the known, the familiar, while the nuance in Leachman’s own touch lifts the process into a higher realm.
Process itself is key to meaning. here. Leachman hints as much by titling many of the works with a month or time of day, reinforcing the link between the doing of the work. and its ultimate being. In translating the humble, repetitive action of braiding and hooking rugs into the medium of painting, Leachman shifts the terms of the works’ reception. considerably, from domestic setting to rarefied art site, from the floor to the wall. But the transcendent, meditative potential of the repetitive act remains the same, binding her work in spirit to artists like Ann Hamilton or Agnes Martin. Like them, Leachman renders the humble sublime.
Newspace, 5241 Melrose Ave., (323) 469-1120, through May 1. Closed Sundays and Mondays.