“Stephen Sollins,” Artforum

Stephen Sollins

Arthur Roger Gallery
432 Julia Street
March 7–March 28

by Natalie Sciortino-Rinehart, ARTFORUM

Elegy (Tulips), 2003–04

This exhibition offers exceptional pieces by Stephen Sollins from the past six years. His recent works integrate found printed paper and acetate from the interiors of envelopes. While obsessive and methodical, these constructions transform the envelopes’ often strange and beautiful prints into elaborate geometric patterns and an allover tapestried field. With titles like Jack’s House and Grandfather’s Garden (both works 2008), Sollins’s quiltlike pieces nearly domesticate any conceptual climax, yet they retain a truly kinetic space punctuated with the multitude of narratives that might exist within each found envelope.

The most engaging pieces that emerge within the show, “Letters Home,” are earlier works like Elegy (Tulips), 2003–2004, wherein the artist reinvents found embroidery panels by removing the original design (tulips) and generating his own geometric patterning. The reworked fibers form an uneven grid of variously sized solid squares and use the basic set of seven colors from its original floral design. The nostalgic is forcibly yet painstakingly replaced with near-mathematical abstractions that reference the semiotic structures of Peter Halley. Yet through a careful and thorough reduction of kitsch into its fundamentals of color and texture, Sollins demands reflection on the most transmutable aspects of aesthetics and even emotions.