Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Ramtpon and Frazer Offer a Dynamic Inversion of Scale

Hadley Rampton, “Metamorphosis,” oil on canvas, 36 x 48 in.

We could say that art of the landscape is always concerned with scale. Land art was so revolutionary precisely because it brought us out of the gallery and restored us to the immense scale of the actual landscape. But we make a distinction between Land and landscape art precisely because the latter has generally been concerned with bringing the landscape within the gallery walls —  an act that inevitably involves a framing or cropping, and transformation of scale. Usually that transformation is about reduction, but as the current show at Phillips Gallery demonstrates, it can also involve expansion. And playing the two off each other creates a dynamic juxtaposition.

Hadley Rampton has been bringing her experience of the land inside for years. The Salt Lake City native takes her her not small canvases into the wilds, where she transforms the mountains and flora of the Wasatch range — and in more recent years, the Southwest — into paint. (She also produces small watercolors while on travels around the world, some of which are on display, but these works seem to be about something different than the oils.) Though painted en plein air, these paintings don’t have the brushed and blended look of standard plein air fare. They are much more architectural, the paint scraped in with a knife, elements reduced, almost, to blocks of color: there is even a modernist, Mondrian-esque grid beneath many of the works, especially the aspens. 

Installation view of Rampton’s smaller paintings of the southwest surrounded by two of Frazer’s “glyphs”

Jim Frazer’s work is also informed and inspired by the landscape. But where Rampton might be influenced by architecture, Frazer comes at his work from a scientific angle, his focus more micro than macro. In 2018, the Salt Lake City artist began making sculptural objects based on the trails in wood he found left by bark-beetle larvae, which can destroy whole pine forests. First he translated these “glyphs” as he calls them, into works on paper; but then he began enlarging the size of the trails ten-fold as wood sculptures, covered in copper-leaf, so they are both marvelous and daunting. 

Shown together, Frazer and Rampton’s works create a powerful inversion of scale, each a re-presentation of the natural world in our back yard. The broad expanses of our mountains and trees have been tamed in Rampton’s canvases, while Frazer’s relatively massive sculptures crawl up and around the paintings, asking us to look and appreciate in a different way.

Hadley Rampton and Jim Frazer, Phillips Gallery, Salt Lake City, through Feb. 11

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