by Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
Small, subtle paintings, especially abstract ones, can easily lack presence. Bay Area painter Kimetha Vanderveen has understood this liability and overcome it.
No painting in her first solo show at Mina Dresden measures even 1 foot square, yet nearly everything here makes us want to intensify our attention to it, so that we imbue her work with the presence it might otherwise appear to lack.
Abstraction may have had roots in the attitude of "art for art's sake," but Vanderveen takes it in the direction of scrutiny for scrutiny's sake, and for pleasure's sake, as if she believes that painting ought to counterpoise the wide culture's trend toward perceptual and conceptual blur.
With their burnished surfaces, low contrast and light touch, her paintings make us reach for a clear view of their details, some of which may show plainly only from certain angles or at specific times of day. To visitors not inclined to ask themselves what they are seeing, the work may simply look vacant.
Vanderveen lavishes effort on little stretches of panel, layering colors and sanding away passages to let underpainting breathe through.
In the intimate theater of her picture's surfaces and atmospheres, a single brush mark may declare itself with inordinate force, despite its subtlety. Without imagery, "Seta" (2010) quavers with reminiscences of change in weather or temperature, or perhaps of waking to morning fog.
Like Richard Tuttle and like the watercolors of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), Vanderveen can enliven a large interior with just a few well-judged, unforced moves. She commands Dresden's cavernous gallery space with almost uncanny economy.