Pierced Red Square

Suzanne Williams
Pierced Red Square
Oil on canvas, 1998
18 x 18 inches
From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence
1999.004.106

Some of the immediate associations generated by Pierced Red Square are automotive—the color scheme of candy-apple red and chrome-like variations of gray, the six-cylinder schema, and the Von Dutch style pinstripe arabesques. But Suzanne Williams’ ambiguously precise compositions can operate on multiple levels simultaneously. With a slight shift of perspective, you can view Pierced Red Square as a landscape seen through curtains in front of a balcony, the series of triangular value-scale black-and-white gradations coalescing into a horizonless seascape. Then again, if you consider the title, the image reverts to a two-dimensional pattern, with the crimson and gray undergoing a figure/ground flip—the arterial hue of the violated geometric ideal and the steely metallic pointy-ness of the piercing spearhead shapes move to the foreground. Then you might notice the pinstripes are asymmetrical, with two differently oriented symmetrical pairs bracketed by wholly different linear patterns, and start seeing a resemblance to the golden record that the Voyager spacecraft carried into space—an association which isn’t as far-out as it sounds. The final impression Williams’ work leaves you with is one of a mysterious, but emphatically deliberate, encoding of information; it is a complex, indeterminate abstract image that presses into your consciousness with a weight of undeniable intelligence and craft.