A petite, bright white studio overlooking the trees of Eagle Street is the clean, calm home to Zoe Pettijohn Schade’s intricate and phenomenally executed gouache paintings.
The tin-ceiled building was previously used as a display space for J Josephs Sons Furniture on Manhattan Avenue; patches of remarkable, however weathered, wallpaper in the staircase hallway hint at a more glamorous past. These bits of history unwittingly revealed appropriately echo the retrospective and layered nature of Pettijohn Schade’s work.
This past weekend Jen and I had the opportunity to visit Pettijohn Schade’s studio for a preview of what she will be showing at this weekend’s GO Brooklyn Art Festival. Her multi-layered paintings immediately conjure a mid-century aesthetic but are in fact, both directly and indirectly inspired from patterns and shapes anonymously executed in the 1670s which she discovered during her travels in France. Clearly motivated by the long, rich, and somewhat mystifying history of these ancient paintings, Pettijohn Schade has respected and wrangled these patterns to make them her own.
Each of Pettijohn’s paintings presents a challenge, often cut by a mesmerizing undercurrent of ease. To achieve this end, the walls of Pettijohn Schade’s studio offer a motley of images: a dynamic, dark jewel-toned pattern of a “crazy mossy double-helix;” undulating, musical strands of gold; a crowd of disconcerting candy-colored gravestones; and silver pyramids that defy the two dimensions of the canvas while remaining locked in an isometric grid of triangles and cubes.
Pettijohn Schade’s conceptual framework and her focus on patterns could be described similarly as she is arguably interested in simultaneous seduction and insistence, “Repetition relaxes the eye and mind in a way that allows you to add more information.” The more time I spent with each piece, the density and complexity of the layered approach presents itself. Her time spent grappling with the tension between representation and abstraction, the precision of mathematics and the unexpected opportunities offered by imperfection and miscalculation, is evident and offers a rich experience.
Pettijohn Schade’s ability to articulate and discuss her work swings open doors for more insight into the depth of what she is doing. You can find your way up to her studio at 152 Eagle Street this weekend. Engage her! Observe with her! Travel dimensions of time and space! You can do all of this and more this weekend during GO Brooklyn Art Festival – Saturday and Sunday 9/8 & 9/9.