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Chicago Weekly: Review, Tertiary White Show

Blank Slate: Marco Logsdon’s geometric pieces, no personal strings attached

by Sarah Pickering

January 22, 2009

Don’t let the enigmatic title scare you. “Tertiary White,” Marco Logsdon’s newest show at Logsdon 1909, is as accessible as hopping on the Pink Line and getting to the gallery. Geometric patterns of circles and squares form an intricate dance, soothingly colored in an earthy palette. There’s a distinct, mathematic logic to the work, reminiscent of da Vinci’s sketches of his inventions. But instead of illuminating scientific notions, these paintings offer more questions than answers. Complex-looking Venn diagrams melt smoothly into cycles of the moon. Are they flowers, targets, or crop circles? Spiritual vibes or threatening ones? The untitled pieces invite each viewer to derive his own individual meaning from what he sees.

The mystic quality that many have recognized in Logsdon’s work springs from surprisingly practical methods. For example, the mysterious title of the exhibit simply refers to the fact that adding white paint is the third step in his painting process. Although the shapes on the canvas are balanced with impeccable mathematics, the paint itself crackles with organic twists and turns. Within the relatively simple shapes, connotations begin to arise: all these circles make the lone square stand out abruptly, and suddenly it seems like more than just geometry. Rigid outlines are challenged by the swirls of paint that fill them. The manner in which the artist creates such artwork is as singular as the pieces themselves.

Beginning by burning the shapes directly into the wood, Logsdon then spreads on a layer of tar, which he allows to dry before applying latex thickened with aluminum hydrate and, finally, oil paint. A chemical reaction between the oil and the tar creates a unique effect as the dark undercoat erodes the surface layers. The “tertiary” white melts and shatters, exposing the tar. As tempting as it is to give a Freudian reading to this method, Logsdon conversely describes his approach as “no-nonsense…so as to cut out any personal garbage that might affect the possible meanings.”

This chemical reaction that has taken years of trial-and-error to achieve ultimately allows the artist to distance himself from his work. Logsdon has learned how to control certain aspects of the process, but external factors like temperature and humidity always affect the final piece. This intended uncertainty is related to Logsdon’s ideas about art in general. Critical of artists who attempt to attach their life story to their abstract art, he describes such psychologically-imbued work as “asking too much” of the audience. He favors beauty and aesthetics over narrative, concluding that “if it’s not on the wall, it’s not there.” This down-to-earth perspective is part of what makes Logsdon’s art so accessible: by avoiding a narrative, he invites you to create your own.

Can an artist ever completely remove all evidence of himself from his work? Logsdon’s self-described OCD certainly comes out in the final geometric perfection on canvas. The organic style is a direct result of the scientific process he created. Despite his views against imposing a message on the viewer, Logsdon maintains that “art is about communication.” Regarding Logsdon’s work in general, and especially with this latest exhibit, one understands such communication as a dialogue rather than a one-sided dictation. Logsdon describes his art’s message as one of “balance and serenity,” but beyond those fundamentals, the audience is free to react to the pieces as they wish.

Tertiary White, Logsdon 1909, 1909 S. Halsted St. Through February 7. Saturday, noon-5pm or by appointment.

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