Ninety One Kites, 2018
Materials: Archival digital print on cotton rag, edition no. 2/3, 48' x 40”.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, fifth floor, hallway outside patient rooms H5-101 and H5-102.
This bright, busy, and engrossing work has been digitally printed on paper. Artist Andrew Reach begins with a grid, which he describes as the liberating but "indispensable skeletal backbone" of his work:
“Within the grid, I weave color through geometric constructs, syncopating color and geometric forms as an expression of the joy of movement; a stand-in for my inability to move freely through the world without pain.”
We are at first intrigued by the shifting sense of projection and depth in the forms, the kites, that Reach has chosen to compose the underlying grid and then, noticing how some colors seem to advance while others recede, we attend to the patterns and their relationships across the surface of the print. Do any patterns repeat, and if so, what rules govern the repetitions? What considerations have guided the artist’s choice of colors and their intensity here? The artist points to the great painter, color theorist and educator, Josef Albers, and his wife, the designer, fiber artist and printmaker Anni Albers, as his inspiration for color and pattern in works such as the one before us.
How does Reach create these 91 kites? He begins, working in pixels in Photoshop, by creating the basic shape of his kites (he explains the “simple” trigonometry involved, which gives him the size and angles). From this, he develops a first grid of kites, 7 rows and 7 across, that are “right-side up” (total of 49) and in between these, a second grid of 7 x 6 “upside-down” kites (total of 42), which explains the title! See if you can count out the kites in two adjacent rows to grasp the organizing principle. His artist statement describes the deep pleasure that he finds in weaving color and geometries in order to express the joy of movement in the face of its loss.
Reach began his career as an architect and then, in consequence to the onset of a debilitating spinal disease, turned his creative energies to painting digitally. In addition to finding a means of expression of motion and energy, he discovered that digital processes allowed him to work on the scale that he wanted. He has been thoughtful about digital techniques and their impact on his own practice, as well as on human creativity more generally. After viewing this print, you may also find his reflections helpful in negotiating the visual arts world of today, where both digital and the older “analogue” techniques co-exist and often, as here and in certain other works of art in the Summa Collection, interpenetrate in new and exciting ways.
The artist’s practice now includes production of textiles displaying geometric patterns that continue to interest him; recently he has begun to create works that are printed on rigid materials (metal, acrylic) and then shaped by CNC router to create variegated contours to the 2-D surface, variants of the “shaped canvases” presented by American artists from the 1960’s.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
Reach, who holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both design (University of Florida) and Architecture (Pratt Institute), now resides and creates in Cleveland. He has exhibited his digital works widely in Ohio and beyond (New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago; Miami, Florida) and has published them in print and online venues, as well as writing extensively about the place of digital art in the history of the visual arts. He has public work in downtown Cleveland and pieces in many corporate and private collections in northeastern Ohio and around the U.S.