by Erin Keever
Sydney Yeager’s exhibition, Persistent Memories, features work she produced during the last five years. The title of the exhibition connotes the past, but her most recent paintings communicate a distinguishable change in direction, from all-over abstraction to figure-ground work.
Photos taken of demolition sites along Texas State Highway 290 inspire Yeager’s newest paintings. Rather mundane images of bent and twisted metal remnants have been transformed into colorful, curving painted shapes on canvas. Specific architectural carnage is now unrecognizable, yet somehow structurally familiar.
In addition to possessing prominent referents from the contemporary world, Yeager’s dynamic forms, like rotating links, conjure historical examples of abstraction. Echoes of Ferdinand Léger’s mechanical crescents and tubes can be discerned although without crammed composition and crisp definition. Yeager’s brushwork ranges from open and assertive to delicate and nuanced. Like in Futurism, destruction and creation are related, but one is not predicated on the other and there are no political implications.
Other influences Yeager cites include Baroque fresco, which is not surprising considering the degree of movement and energy in the figure- ground paintings. Use of metallic paints in 2014’s Accelerato combines a silvery veiled background with thin crisscross golden marks that float like delicate twigs on a pond. Even if unintentionally, Yeager’s gold and silver backgrounds allude to Byzantine iconography along with the role of the artist as alchemist.
“The question is whether these fragments are nostalgic reminders of the past, or the beginnings of a new form. The answer is never clear, and is always interesting to me.”
– Sydney Yeager
In her alchemy, Yeager applies knowledge gleaned from multiple trips to Italy, where she enjoys studying Ancient Roman mosaics and frescoes such as the Second Style Gardenscape from Livia’s Villa on view at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. Yeager is particularly interested in partially restored works. Similar to her highway demolition sites, patched together wall paintings suggest ruin, but also the fragmentary and fleeting qualities of nature.
The title of the show (from a painting) evokes not just the past, but also its endurance. Like Wassily Kandinsky and his lyrical figure-ground “compositions,” Yeager’s latest works possess musical titles such as Accelerato, Bellicoso, Tango, and Chord. Perhaps they reflect the complicated rhythms and inevitability of life’s transitions, sometimes turbulent, other times more graceful.
As the artist says, “The question is whether these fragments are nostalgic reminders of the past, or the beginnings of a new form. The answer is never clear, and is always interesting to me.”