Margaret Wenstrup

Focal Point

Jan 2, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Surprise, the quirky element that can't be taught, runs through Margaret Wenstrup's inventive art — as true in this recent piece in the Contemporary Arts Center's Graphic Content exhibition as in her past works.

No title here — we're off in a neverland where shape rules. And what shapes! Those weird almost-rectangles, white elegantly traced in black ink that might form words but don't, each with two parallel sides but one much shorter than the other and swoops of lines to form connecting sides. At first glance these shapes appear to be the same thing set four ways. Wrong. The upper one is the smallest, the one to the right skinnier than the one at left. The bottom one might be the mean from which the others diverge.

Black ellipses form the joins, varying from their own theme in four ways, echoing the black of the frame. One of them is the surprise. At top left and bottom right they fit the corners neatly as if formed with draftsman's tools; at bottom left things are slightly skewed; and at top right, whoa!

The regularity breaks away entirely. The gorgeous blue background, acrylic as dense as ink, is fragile and shows through where you don't expect it. The sections surround a perfect square of blue at the center (nicely countering the rectangle of the work as a whole), but up there at the top right everything has gone slippery. The right side pulls away from the top side, and even if pushed together they couldn't fit. Stability is out the window.

For an exhilarating moment one wonders what's next? But that's enough, actually. If there are other surprises tucked in I've not yet found them, but this is quite sufficient to lift the spirit. Wenstrup's work is on view as part of the CAC's final rotation of Graphic Content, which is on view through Feb. 11.

FOCAL POINT turns a critical lens on a singular work of art. Through Focal Point we slow down, reflect on one work and provide a longer look.