Inspired by Jean Arp’s bodily references to the malleability of the human and organic form Baltimore-based artist Alex Ebstein creates abstract works with a variety of materials — most notably yoga mats.
Using yoga mats as both her ground and medium for expression, Ebstein’s paintings present us with an irreverent sense of familiarity, economy, and access.
Texturized rubber, a humble industrial material, is conceptually stretched and physically altered as both an homage and method to subvert the modernist canon. A yoga mat is, for Ebstein, not only a powerful medium of expression but also a corporeal sublimation of our culture’s obsession with the body as a place to work on and/or from. This giving, slim, fairly weightless, scale-to-fit, gracefully haptic rectangular platform has been industrially designed to aid the practice of a centuries-old tradition. A mass produced stand-in product for the real thing: us.
Renunciation of the material world – to achieve physical and spiritual welfare – seems to be both the problem and the solution in her work’s understated narrative. Every element in her paintings fits right in, comfortably sitting in close quarters, almost hugging each other. Nevertheless, there is a latent sense of unease about them, perhaps given by an aura of vulnerability manifested in the hand-made quality of their irregular borders; one that seems to strive for a certain individual autonomy. But there they are, beautifully arranged, deadpan, as if each painting were captured trying to articulate the right pose/position. And just in a quick blink, not less irreverently, her use of color makes us forget about all of the above. Infusing her compositions with a very peculiar and powerful energy, a diverse range of color harmonies are displayed with mastery and caring warmth.
Confidently bridging the functional, the critical, and the aesthetically pleasing, Ebstein’s paintings hold a reality of their own. And, like in an ideal yoga practice, the concrete and the abstract dynamically merge, giving free flow to what is elemental and spontaneous, positively breathing an air of cheeky subversion.