Geometry in a State of Collapse

Stephen Westfall, “Samba da Lua” (2021), oil and alkyd on canvas, 45 x 38 inches

In an interview that I did with Stephen Westfall more than 15 years ago (The Brooklyn Rail, 2006), he made an observation that I think has grown in importance, particularly in this politically and socially turbulent climate. Speaking about the grid, he stated his interest in a destabilized structure: “like the whole [grid] could tremble and be knocked over […] which I guess you don’t really associate with planar abstraction.” 

We can think of the grid as either a secure structure within which an artist seeks freedom of expression or one that is ultimately unstable. Within those parameters it is easy to point to artists who use the grid as a source of security and to the smaller, more adventuresome group who are too restless to settle into a signature form, even as it impacts their viability in the marketplace. Westfall belongs to the latter group. He is an antsy geometric abstract artist, which in some quarters might be thought of as an oxymoron.

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