6.15.2008

Awash in Color: "No Chromophobia"

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Updated 6.17.08

This post is about “No Chromophobia,” an exhibition of non-objective color on view at OK Harris Works of Art through September 6 (with a hiatus July 12 –September 1). I’m in the show, so consider this an exhibitor’s report.

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Installation view: This is what you see when you walk into the first gallery of "No Chromophobia" at OK Harris. Geometry rules in a cool tonal palette that's more subdued here than in the other rooms. Image courtesy of the gallery

The work of the artists, from left: Cora Roth, Rella Stuart-Hunt, Yuko Shiraishi, Kazuko Inoue, Pat Lipsky

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Above: First gallery, from left. Pat Lipsky, Kazuko Inoue, Rebecca Salter, Marthe Keller
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Below: Keller, Louise P. Sloane

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First of all, it’s an enormous show. All six exhibition spaces are filled with works from 33 primarily mid-career artists who are represented by several works each. (The gallery website features a rotating selection of installation shots, which changes weekly.)

It’s a painting show. If you left the Biennial hungry for, well, anything besides junk in the hallway, this is the antidote.

And by design, it’s a show of work primarily by women artists, so if you left “Color Chart” at MoMA wondering where the other half of the art world was, voila. But let me state flat out that it’s not a “women’s show” any more than Color Chart was a “men’s show.” Still, I like the numbers—and the work—here.

The enormous two front galleries hold the larger work, from Pat Lipsky’s dark-toned geometry to Rebecca Salter’s subtly textured monochrome to higher-key color fields by Marthe Keller and Louise P. Sloane. Sloane's more saturated palette, along with the room's strong sense of geometry, carry you into the second gallery where more highly chromatic work by Sharon Brant, Paula Overbay, Diane Ayott, Rose Olson and others dominates.

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Above: From the first gallery, looking into the second. From left: Mary Obering, Doug Ohlson, Yuko Shiraishi

Below: In the second gallery looking back into the first. Those are Sharon Brant's paintings flanking the doorway in Gallery 2

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Above: This view (image courtesy of OK Harris) will orient you around the second gallery, continued below:

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In the second gallery. From left: Li Trincere, Joan Mellon, Diane Ayott, Mellon again, Mary Obering

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.In the second gallery: Joanne Klein, Rose Olson, Jean Wolff, Li Trincere

There is a visual narrative in the exhibition that takes you from large and minimal to smaller and more compositionally complex, so that by the middle room (ego alert: where my own work is installed) there’s a mix of the two, moving to more compositional abstraction in the smaller back gallery. By the time you reach the large back room, size—small—is the overriding element, with a range of visual expression in evidence.

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Third Gallery: I know this room. From left: a grid of nine of my Silk Road paintings, each 12 x 12 inches, encaustic on panel (I showed earlier work from this series in a small solo show at the gallery last year); Uttar 238, encaustic on panel, 36 x 36 inches; an assembled work on paper by Siri Berg

(A large, fluid composition by Margaret Neill, also in this room, is not shown here, but it's on the gallery homepage, take a look )

Below: My painting, Berg's work, and an installation by Cathleen Daley

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On the wall to the right of Daley's work: fluid geometries by Julie Gross on either side of a poured color field by Kate Beck.

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Steven Alexander, a painter whose work could easily have been at home in this show, wrote cogently about it, noting: “There is a conspicuous absence of irony—these artists are engaged in painting not as pastiche, but as a deeply intelligent exploration of visual and tactile properties. In addition to the focus on color, the show is unified and driven by reductive form, and what could be described as succinct construction— delicate balancing of the analytical and the sensuous— surfaces and objects that are beautifully and specifically crafted, infused with sagacious knowledge of the medium and the language, with absolutely no fluff: direct painting, deceptive in its simplicity.”

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On the long wall in the back room: Paula Overbay, two small vertical works by Rose Olson, two by Soonae Tark, one of my grids, Doug Ohlson, another by Overbay.
(The installation in the back room has changed somethat since I shot this; check the gallery homepage, and in the rotating images you'll see that it's now Overbay, two by Olson, me, and another Olson)
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The size of this show alone would make it impressive, but the selection is beautifully curated and installed. Viewing this show, I have been introduced to the work of artists whose work is new to me, just as I have had the chance to see new work by artists whose work is familiar. Happily, we are awash in shows about color right now--what little miracle seeded the ether to compel so many gallerists to focus on hue at the same time?--and I am honored to be part of this one.

The show was curated and designed by Richard Witter, the gallery’s long-time installer, and managed by Suzanne Kreps, the gallery manager. The two knew it would be an abstraction show, but the parameters shifted this way and that as they made studio visits and tossed around ideas. The focus on non-objective color sharpened slowly--and independently of all the other color-themed exhibitions.

The idea took a more concrete form a year ago January in the "cold and bleak" dead of winter, recalls Witter: "I needed a shot of Jules Olitski." Instead he purchased two little brilliantly hued gouache abstractions at a small gallery in Chelsea, and that started him thinking about color as subject, as object.

Another parameter was materials. "I knew I wanted traditional tools and supports--the brush, canvas, panels, paint, artists colors," he says. And another: a reductive sensibility. "I wanted [the show] to be a portrait of color." But get close and look at those surfaces--tactile, sensuous, sublime. The art world may be growing younger by the minute, but paint handling like this develops over time.

If the Chelsea sirens have pulled you away from SoHo of late, let the chromatic call of this show bring you back downtown.

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5 comments:

Chris Rusak said...

Excellent. It's so nice to see some non-objective color work amidst all the rest of the weblogs, and moreso, that great works like such keep getting produced. So much more palatable than magic marker art. Great photos, too, I'm entirely jealous being stuck on the west coast.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks, Chris--

I totally agree with you about being able to see good non-objective color. This blog focuses on color, geometry, materiality and abstraction, so please visit often. And I'm still tweaking this post (I need to identify some of the artists), so give a look back midweek when the rest of the info will be in place.

Eva said...

I am jealous in every way! Want to see see it, want to be in it! Congrats!!!

Casey Klahn said...

A powerful hanging, Joanne. Very wonderful work!

Martin said...

hi - i want to let you know that i was looking forward to seeing this show and had plans to go from brooke alexander to ok harris to a party... but unfortunately the people that i was supposed to meet at b. alexander never showed up, i waited forever, and then had to skip your show to make it to the party. sorry. i regret missing it.