Evolving abstract minimalist landscapes part of Kiechel display

by L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star

“Never Really Gone,” Chad M. Olsen’s second Kiechel Fine Arts exhibition, reveals an evolving artist refining his voice as he brings his vision of the Nebraska landscape to canvas and Dura-Lar.

As was the case in his 2018 show, “What’s Nebraska Like, Babe?”, Olsen is working in what he calls “formalist minimalist atmospheres” and “abstract landscape atmospheres.”

But those atmospheres, painted in 2020, have gone even more abstract and, well, atmospheric to the point where many are only minimally recognizable as landscape.

They include “The Wanderer IV,” which, with some study, shows itself to be clouds reflecting off water. But on first glance, and after, the painting appears to be abstraction with wavering white lines across a black passage hovering above silvery stripes below what turns out to be the horizon line.

That piece, along with all the works on Dura-Lar, gains atmosphere — a blurry luminosity — because the paint is on the back of the acetate sheet, shining out to the viewer through the film that is primarily used in printmaking and collages.

Interestingly, the Dura-Lar pieces work in both small, 5-by-8-inch scale and at the 15-by-20-inch scale of “The Wanderer” series.

And the smaller pieces reveal something of Olsen’s visual and working process as well, starting with a series of small rectangular paintings on film that are among the few pieces that weren’t made in 2020.

Dating back to 2012, those pieces utilize drips, strong horizontal brushstroke and some cloudlike small color fields to hint at landscape. But Olsen clearly had not found his voice in those works.

Fast forward to the new pieces and his vision is more refined, moving, in the case of “Wildfire Smoke Sky Study I,” from a well-defined Sandhills landscape — with black clouds handing above a thin stretch of blue sky and, below the horizon line, a tan grassland — and a barely defined blue field with a couple of black slashes on the sides over a reddish-brown passage of “Wildfire Smoke Sky Study II.”

Olsen, a 2002 Lincoln Southeast graduate who moved to New York after receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2010, returned to Nebraska a few years ago, taking on the vistas of his home state as his subject matter.

“Nebraska has a melancholy landscape,” he writes in his artist’s statement. “It is harsh, yet gentle. I find wholeness in it. When I look at the landscape, I have a feeling that we are never really gone. I am a wanderer into the endless horizon line. Always looking. Always searching.”

Olsen’s statement, obviously, contains the title of the exhibition and its signature piece.

A 36-by-40-inch oil on canvas, “Never Really Gone” is a highly atmospheric view of a bright, white cloud breaking through into hazy, blue sky over rolling, olive-green land.

Even more abstract is “Hidden Wolf Moon,” another large painting that’s a study in blues that hints at, I think, a bluff in the moonlight. But it is just as easily seen, and works just as well, as pure abstraction.

“Never Really Gone” is on view at Kiechel Fine Art through Nov. 28.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com. On Twitter @KentWolgamott  

If You Go

What: “Never Really Gone” by Chad M. Olsen

Where: Kiechel Fine Art, 1208 O St.

When: Through Nov. 28

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. 

Read the full article here.