Louisa L. Chase
Etching, aquatint, spit-bite, chine colle on Somerset textured paper, 52 1/4 x 35 1/2 in. (132.72 x 90.17 cm)
Museum Purchase, 1992.95
At times cartoonishly apocalyptic, the effervescent compositions of Louisa L. Chase blend landscapes and fragments of human bodies into colorful chaos. Born into a military family in Panama City, Panama, Chase was raised in Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania. Though she originally intended to study classics, Chase earned a degree in printmaking in 1973 from Syracuse University. Two years later, Chase graduated from Yale with a master's degree in fine art. After graduation, Chase moved to New York just as minimalism and conceptual art were beginning to wane. Often grouped with the mini-movement New Image Painting, Chase produced dissociative flurries of hands and heads adrift in layers of saturated color and expressive nearly calligraphic lines. In the print featured here, shapes suggestive of yeti-like footprints outline an almost-square dance, circling from olive green and fire red opaque forms in the foreground into ever-fainter smoke gray scratches beyond. Writing of her increasingly geometric and linear approach for a 1991 exhibition at Brooke Alexander, the artist described her paintings and prints as “a ball of yarn sense of narration that went in and out of space.”
Similarly, the fuzzed out guitar riffs and scrupulously growled vocals of Ian Svenonius as Escape-ism adhere to an aggressively tangled, in-and-out-of-space sensibility. Aside from spaciness, the aesthetic sensibilities Chase and Svenonius share a dark snideness. This sinister humor is most apparent in paintings like Chase's Swimmer, in which a simplified, blocky figure flails amidst frenetic eel-like squiggles. Likewise, songs like Bodysnatcher borrow from popular retro beach party movies and campy science fiction films to decidedly silly yet slightly disturbing effect.