Most Second Generation
New York School painters chased the dragon of color in the direction
of field over and above line. In the short term, this led to intense
chromatic explorations; in the long term, however, flat, hard-edges
drew painting into iconic, conceptual avenues. Or else protagonists
like Jules Olitski or Helen Frankenthaler withdrew into romantic pictorialism.
It is a calligraphic
melding of line and color that truly conveys the lyrical impulse. Ms.
Meyer's painting entails an almost alchemical marriage of figure and
ground; more specifically, in her case, of gesture and bleed. Her work
of the last twenty years reconnects with an earlier impulse in American
painting. One forebear she brings to mind in her fusion of line and
space is Sam Francis. Like this overlooked postwar master, she is an
epicurean rather than a hedonist: jouissance and agility are never gratuitous
ends in themselves.
At first it might
seem business as usual with Ms. Meyer's newest show of nine canvases,
with the familiar vocubulary of diaphanous stains and bravura flourishes.
But actually there's been an exponential leap in the development of
her syntax. Earlier in her career, Ms Meyer reinvented herself as an
oil painter when she discovered watercolor. There is no mistaking the
influence of this medium to this day, in the speed, spontaneity, and
ethereality of her paint handling. As profound a shake-up has recently
occurred in her very public education as an artist, but this time there
is no visual clue as to the protagonist: Photoshop.
Last winter, two
mammoth murals as much as forty foot high and sixty wide were unveiled
in the atrium of Tokyo's tallest building, the Shiodome City Center.
Preparing maquettes for this project on a computer renewed her engagement
with collage. This, not to mention actually executing the murals, has
profoundly affected her sense of space and her attraction to radical
The grid has for
long been a mainstay of Ms. Meyer's sense of composition, and paintings
can still resemble happy go lucky quilts. But there is a new looseness,
a liberal improvisation with structure, evident in works like the 10-foot-wide
diptych, "Duetto," (2003). This is an exhilarating duet between
open and closed forms, between lasso-like calligraphy, and dense, blob
like hieroglyphs. Shaped blocks of smooth color form a kind of basso
Such musical analogies
come felicitously when looking at Ms. Meyer. She has a rare capacity
to be at once harmonious and performative, in that everything is exactly
and inevitably where it should be, and yet is full of surprise.
Photoshop and the
Tokyo murals have been for Ms. Meyer what cutout and the Vence Chapel
commission were for Matisse: a surprising new twist in the education
of an artist "ever a beginner" in the Rilkean sense.
Andrea Belag Sevilla
oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches
cover, November 6, 2003: Ghost, 2003
oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches
Courtesy Bill Maynes Gallery
Andrea Belag has
developed a highly personal painting idiom that has something of the
formal capacity of a sonnet in its discipline, severity, and expressive
potential. She is showing at Bill Maynes, two floors up from Elizabeth
Harris. Her work is charged with an intensity that suggests the kind
of expansive imagination that thrives within reduced means.
A typical work is
usually around 3 feet on its longest side, constructed of rectangles
within rectangles, brushy bars of muted color. Her format very closely
resembles that of Mr. Hodgkin in the way it rather literally presents
an Albertian window onto the world. Like the Englishman, she seems to
encourage subtle intimations of landscape and narrative. She shares
with Ms. Meyera watercolor senseibility within oil paint, and with Mr.
Scully a willingness to make emphatic brushstrokes lead players in her
painterly dramas, at once literal and metaphorical presences.
Her paintings have
a voice of their own, however, and a welcome voice it is, tough and
quirky. In terms of color, she is more tonal than chromatic, and she
has a correspondingly prodigious range of textures, from the loose,
open, and squiggy to the grainy, gritty, and dense. At times these can
seem solipsistic, a little too pleased with their own range, but the
character of her brushstroke-bars often carry the narrative. And her
work always remains charged with an ³as if² quality. Her ambiguous
forms nervously teeter on the edge of cognition. They can be correspondingly
edgy in mood.
In Mr. Maynes's
project room, Ms. Belag has curated 'White,' a cute thematic show which
in its studied eclecticism seems calculated to distance the artist's
own formal preoccupations from any accusation of formalism. A number
of conceptual exhibits just happen to be white; there's a rather fascinating
Dorothea Rockburne on plain paper (but does that really count as
white?), and a politically heavy-handed white panel by the new enfant
terrible of racial abjection, William Pope L. The show badly needed
a Robert Ryman, but the wayward effort was nonetheless redeemed by the
inclusion of an utterly exquisite window painting by Lois Dodd from
1983. The compelling focus and intensity of this realist painting raised
the bar for Ms. Belag¹s own efforts.