Ruth Root, Untitled, 2016. Plexiglas, fabric, enamel, and spray paint, 94 3/4 x 48 inches (241 x 122 cm). Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; Hassam, Speicher, Betts and Symons Funds, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York © Ruth Root
Ruth Root’s inventive painting practice is a playful take on the legacy of abstraction that reconfigures the medium’s traditional methods and modes of presentation through her use of irregularly shaped supports and digital printing processes.
Untitled is from a recent body of shaped, two-part works made with a painted Plexiglas panel attached to, and suspended from, a digitally-printed fabric support. Root designs each of the fabrics in Photoshop—which she employs as an “image-making device,” as she has said—from a range of found imagery. In Untitled, a repeating pattern of geometric and biomorphic forms made from found images of 20th-century design is printed on a garish yellow textile. The fabric element is affixed to the wall with grommets, folded, looped, and stitched through an opening in a Plexiglas panel adorned with an off-register array of spray-painted polka dots. Swatches of dots are overpainted with solid triangular blocks of enamel that emphasize the curvatures of the oddly shaped panel. Untitled playfully upends the traditional relationship between canvas and stretcher by making the fabric function as a literal support, beyond being solely a material support for paint. The result is a hybrid object with an unresolved sense of tension and a productive interplay between hard and soft materials, digital and analog processes, and the fine and applied arts.
The addition of Untitled builds on a developing strength of the ICA’s holdings in painting, complementing works by Charline von Heyl, Amy Sillman, and Laura Owens, and joins textile-based works by Charles LeDray, Kevin Beasley, and others.