41 East 57th Street, New York
March 24 – April 30, 2005
A version of this article was first published at The New York Sun, March 31, 2005.
Adele Alsop, a former student of Neil Welliver, lives and works in Utah. Her second show at Alexandre Gallery includes 12 paintings and an installation adapted from a stage set she designed for a community theater. Paintings divide between luscious still lifes and landscapes and several figurative tours de force.The pleasure of this show lie in the painting of redrock scenery, local vegetation and jaunty bouquets. These are lush, bouyant and engaging.
“Wild Flowers with Full Moon” (2004), sets a glass jar of golden heliopsis and purple blooms in front of a desert landscape. Flower foliage merges with a line of cactus in the middle distance, locking them into a single verdant horizontal. Petals sink into the dry earth beyond or dance over it, depending on placement against shifting tones. Dark stamens, like stepping stones across the sand, carry the eye toward blue-purple mountains and a daytime moon punctuating the lively cerulean sky.
Ms. Alsop’s enthusiasm for the gestural feats of a loaded brush is contagious. So is the richness of her color and exuberant capacity to suggest fresh air. The central bouquet of “Snow Thunder” (2003) plays scraped transparent shadows against buttery brush strokes that register blossoms with surety and economy. She makes good use here of fine-grained linen which permits a full brush to glide over the surface yet has just enough tooth to hold trace color when pigment is knifed away. “Heart Self” (2003) floats a clear red flower across a line of white birches that rise in front of a snow-covered mountain. Truth of observation, fresh and persuasive, yields a subtle valentine to Georgia O’Keefe who frequently centered a disparate motif over a natural backdrop.
Prominently textured, Ms. Alsop’s monotypes have a topography all their own. Look at the tactile depth of “The Mountain Lion in the Cattails” (2003). Paper pressed onto high impasto lifts sufficient pigment for it to retain dimension . Effects are lovely, less dense than a painting but with greater materiality than familiar monotype. In both paintings and monotypes, she exploits transparencies to allow surfaces to breathe.
But something goes wrong in the figures. They have the provisional look of studio experiments painted by some one else. Detached from visual realities, Ms. Alsop’s expressiveness loses conviction. These are all unfelt oddities. Several versions of Imanja, a Brazilian sea goddess, have her standing on one rubbery leg imitating aTantric deity. The heroine of “Here I Come” (2004) is a sketchily winged female nude hovering like a darning needle over a lake of white paint. Ms. Alsop serves herself best-and beautifully-by keeping faith with what she observes.