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Xanda McCagg: Encounters, By Michael J. Bowen Standpipe Gallery 2011

 

The commercial and competitive aspects of the contemporary art market have inspired a great deal of innovation, but also a considerable amount of self-promoting fiddle-faddle and empty experimentation.

 

It is most refreshing, therefore, to find that the aesthetic and humanist valences of classical modernism still hold a meaningful place in the work of established artists, whose sensibilities required a more personal engagement with the quiddities of image-making.

 

Xanda McCagg received her formal training at Boston University in the mid-1980s. Her early efforts involved a variety of media – including stained glass – but by the mid-1990s she had settled into an approach to painting that would typify the work she has come to be known for.

 

McCagg’s style hearkens back to the modernist injunction to know the essences of one’s medium and accept its limitations as the boundaries of a deep and personal struggle. Employing only the essential elements of shape, line and color, she marks out a visual terrain that takes no interest in illusion making.

 

Exemplary of McCagg’s efforts, the works featured in Encounters speak to an expressive heart guided by a knowing hand. The compact arousal of Attraction, the sublime transformations of Crucifer, the massive solidity of Ponder... McCagg’s work grounds itself in a litany of devices – bold patches of color, over-painting, scribbles and drips – yet deftly reconfigures these elements. Occasionally, a small swatch of extraneous material – tape or Velcro – will complete the composition, driving the viewer back to re-consider the material nature of the work.