The Minimalist Altar of Fonchen Lord, at MFA through Oct. 1
In a room at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, enveloped by its permanent collection, four pieces of captivating minimalism are on display. Created by Florence “Fonchen” Lord (1911-1993) between 1967-77, these large pieces are alluring in their sharp use of patterned lines and brilliant color, without being overwhelming in physical size. Three shaped canvasses and one large sculpture show how she explored the rhythms of line and use of color to create movement and harmony within works.
For her work titled White Cross (1970), the piece used in the museum’s promotional material, Lord uses only three colors, red, white, and blue, to create four large squares that seem to be interwoven. These four large squares are outlined in red and blue stripes, which compel the eye to follow their paths around each square, going over then under itself in the center of the work and causing movement through its mesmerizing course. Lord echoes the four-square shape of her canvas with these border lines that work individually and yet coalesce in a satisfying neatness.
Lord was also interested in methods of self-examination and awareness, and studied the psychoanalytical writings of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. In her piece, Untitled (1967-72), she uses subtle gradations of color and line to create an abstract representation of mandala symbolism, a meditation on wholeness and perspective. For her sculpture, Barber Pole Totem #1 (1977), Lord once again uses a limited range of color (red, white, silver, and gold are used here) to emphasize the lines as they exist on the three-dimensional form, a rumination on the concepts of self and interconnectivity.
Lord, a painter and sculptor, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, moved to Lakeland, Florida in 1949 and was involved with both local and national art organizations. She earned her BA at Radcliffe College and her MA at Washington University in Missouri.
If you’re heading to the MFA in St. Pete to see its portion of the Skyway exhibition, be sure to see this spotlight show on Fonchen Lord from now through Oct. 1. There will also be a presentation and conversation between Katherine Pill, Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art and Ann Gurley Rogers (author of Lord biography) on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 1:30 p.m.