Woman Holding Tablet (1946) pleasingly and convincingly locates a seated figure within a geometric environment, with ochre tints and warm blacks set deftly against notes of bright coral and medium blue. The rather strenuous engineering of the pose and surroundings, however, give the impression of an exercise – a demonstration of the plastic re-creation of a generic event.
The grainy, opaque paint surfaces and austere earth palette bespeak an unfashionably non-ironic desire to produce ‘quality’ paintings. And there are learned references and quotations from art history and photography.
At first the eye is fooled – one thinks one is looking at silvery photographs of sublime cloudscapes shot from an airplane above an uninhabited wilderness. Closer examination reveals the patient, expert mark of the hand, as well as an improvisatory richness of imagination that, while consistently illusionistic, is decidedly otherworldly.
The artist softens his vigorous brushwork using a blending brush, a staple of the realist painter’s tool kit, relying too heavily on an admixture of white to sidestep the chromatic muddiness that would otherwise ensue. In places this unexpected technique imparts a smeary appearance, while elsewhere the forms are so hairy-looking you want to take a big comb to them.
We all know that beautiful artifacts are grand commodities, and so have to be carefully guarded. But by making her sculptures beautiful and menacing, both at the same time, Lou brings home that contradiction.
A “pink lady” is a cocktail made with gin, Grenadine, cream and egg white—the gin packs a punch masked by the more ladylike ingredients. The punch in this painting lies in how its image, suggesting (among much else) an orchid and a human heart, boils upward and outward, from its slate-blue core through the billowing peach and fuchsia of its sides to the splattering blast of blue and reds at the top.
Much of Winsor’s originality derives from her enigmatic yet evocative treatment of form, which conceals as much as it reveals.
Throughout this retrospective selection of her work, one senses in Matthiasdottir a luminous reserve – a private temperament joyfully submitting to an exacting task. We’re rewarded with extraordinary evocations of the observed.
Hints of past layers visible beneath the surface are the only counterpunch to a solid machine that affords little room for speculation beyond its shiny and seductive design. The label of “primitive” given to Overstreet and many of his peers in contemporary abstract painting belies a highly stylized, self-conscious approach to image construction.
Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone at the New Museum and Mary Heilmann: Some Pretty Colors at Zwirner & Wirth
Heilmann often seems be daring herself to do something truly “awful”—only to find beauty in it…The accumulated brushmarks and open drips make her act of painting transliterate into a kind of crime of passion.