As has been evident for some years, Jill Weber's enterprise is chiefly characterized by engrossing work—and re-doubled work—toward her own form, a form at once idiosyncratic and monumental in effect.
Over time, the complexity and ambition of the artist's painterly acts of composition, line and color, combined with her constant emphasis of surface and her virtuose handling of paint, have produced a body of work as solid and imposing as any imaginable piece of architecture.
And the key word here is, in the end, architecture, since Weber's most realized paintings palpably reverberate with qualities that are essentially architectural, i.e. a profound and quite subtle attention, in her dynamic, painterly schemas, to intervals, volumes, weight, and balance.
Further to the point, those schemas, like great architecture, "approach the effect of music;" there is the overwhelming sensation, in front of many of her "structural diagrams", that one is contemplating some sort of abstruse musical notation, that the works must emanate an ethereal music just barely out of earshot. One finds oneself wishing we could turn up the sound.
"Architectural spaces and details have always been the starting point for my work," the artist has said; "by combining drawing and painting, ambiguous places are created…with a sense of disorientation." In addition, it reinforces our apprehension of her painting to know that Weber's education—at SUNY/Buffalo and at Cornell—was steeped in architecture. Expectably, "the paintings are approached as constructions," as she says.
Weber's spiritual kinships are all with those early modernists who strove for the Euclidian in their art, i.e. the Russian Constructivists Tatlin and El Lissitzky, or Malevitch, or Mondrian.
Weber's work appears to be, ultimately, a rebirth, a contemporary reworking of the "New Art" compositions (he called them, famously, nonsensically, Prouns) of El Lissitzky, in the 1920s. A Weber painting like "Structural Diagram Red" or "Structural Diagram 3B Silver," works wafting somewhere between abstraction and isometric projection, could easily be described as "a station for changing from architecture to painting," as Lissitzky once said of his "Prouns."
For this viewer, for a long time, the compositions of Jill Weber, perhaps somewhat unaccountably, evoke the eerie art of Giorgio di Chirico. There are, in her bewildering skeins of plunging perspectives, Escher-like discontinuities, and vacuum-still space, odd evocations of the haunted vistas and desolate piazzas of that seminal Surrealist.
In effect, Weber's ostensibly rigorous studies in geometry exude, uncannily enough, considerable tension, even mystery. Remarkably, Di Chirico once observed that "architecture completes nature," and one could certainly maintain that the desatisfying, architecturally inflected visions of Jill Weber seem to extend our perception of nature.
What many a viewer may carry away from an encounter with Jill Weber's new works is the sensation of having entered some amazing parallel universe where one has had the rare opportunity of contemplating " beauty bare." It is no stretch of the imagination, I think, to imagine, when looking at a work such as "Structural Diagram Red/Yellow/Blue," that the viewer is transported inside some miraculous, prismatic realm, where one's gaze outwards, towards the blue infinite, is bedazzled with bright beams—I-beams—of light and color.
Jan E. Adlmann
Jan E. Adlmann, emeritus Association of Art Museum Directors, author, lecturer and frequent contributor to U.S. art journals, is a resident of Santa Fe.