Usually the word ‘debt’ raises fear in the hearts of people everywhere. It is often associated with maxed out credit cards and other financial woes. Sometimes it is associated with those freakishly kind people who, for one reason or another, we constantly feel indebted. However, there can be positive connotations to this four letter word. Debt is the title of an exhibition that features two artists whose work celebrates the dues they owe to the Pre-Columbian era and mid-cenutry Modernism.  Selected works by Simon Gouverneur and Andy Moon Wilson comprise the current show at the Curator’s Office in Washington, DC aptly named Debt.

Andy Moon Wilson, Untitled, colored pencil on paper, 10in x 10in, 2010. Courtesy of Curator's Office.

Known for their visual intensity, both Simon Gouverneur and Andy Moon Wilson make an interesting pairing.  This micro gallery known as Curator’s Office displays two large paintings by Gouverneur surrounded by hundreds of smaller, rigorously drawn works on paper by Andy Moon Wilson.  Flat, yet vibrant color schemes and penetrating design motifs are characteristic of both artists’ work.  The pattern of vivid horizontal ziz-zag lines in Gouverneur’s Peyote II compliment the equally brilliant horizontal stripes of Moon Wilson’s Untitled.  Both artists’ intricate abstractions communicate an interest and knowledge of design even though their influences come from such different places.

Simon Gouverneur, Peyote II (detail), egg tempera, graphite, and acrylic on canvas, 48in x 48in, 1985, Courtesy of the Estate of Simon Gouverneur.

Simon Gouverneur refers to the I Ching, mandalas and Mayan and Aztec calendars as inspiration for his work, striving to attain something metaphysical. Andy Moon Wilson is more interested in visual intensity and how it communicates with historical and contemporary culture.  Gouverneur is on a spiritual quest whereas Moon Wilson prefers to expound on pattern, design and ornamentation and focuses more on the visceral than spiritual. Carpet designer by day, Andy Moon Wilson translates the algorithms he uses in designing carpets to paper and creates an infinite amount of linear compositions. Appealing to the opposite side of the brain, Simon Gouverneur’s work appeals to the romantic, holding secrets to past cultures and religions.

When I first received an invitation to the opening of Debt I must admit I was a little taken aback by the title. And, when I saw the two images that accompanied it, I was still a little confused at the connection between the title and the work. However, once I acquainted myself with the artists and their work, it became clear.  We all borrow elements from life.  Whether they are from past cultures, the works of living artists or aspects of contemporary society. We all owe a momentous debt to our surroundings.  But, unlike financial debt, this type of owing allows us to pay tribute to the things that have a profound effect on us, and find a way to further make them a part of our world.