“I had been thinking about the Material Color idea since Miami last December,” says Birmingham. After being introduced there to the work of Robert Sagerman—“at no fewer than four places in Miami,” she notes—her antannae tuned into the color frequency.
"I started to become more aware of other artwork that shared this material/surface quality, and by the end of my stay in Miami, I had seen enough to tease my thinking about a possible future exhibition,” she says, adding that the works she responded to “had a very visceral feeling about them.”
In subsequent trips to the Chelsea galleries, with references from artist friends, as well as visits to the various art fairs in town (and, artists take note: some Internet searches), the concept expanded to include material and process, and the roster was formed.
“I was especially interested in seeing how different artists found different ways to handle paint and color,” Birmingham says. “While it is not the entire story, the idea of paint as a substantial material is central in all of these works.”
Above: Ivana Brenner's Sin Titulo (Bosque)
Below: Peter Fox's Royaume
Above: Cecilia Biagini's Emanates From a Center Point
Below: Carlos Estrada Vega's Marcus
Many of the paintings are sufficiently built up to qualify as reliefs. This is certainly true of Robert Sagerman’s painting, 15,356, a shimmering green rectanglar field comprised of thousands of dense brush strokes, well exactly 15, 356 dense brush strokes, pulled up into individual peaks. It’s true of Leslie Wayne, who—I’m not sure how she does this—seems to assemble layers of still-plastic paint and then scrapes and pushes them into an over-the-top topography of lushness, like the elongated Mondo Mondo. It’s true of Carlos Estrada Vega, whose roughly four-foot-square grid of waxy color, Marcus, consists of hundreds of individually painted tiny canvases adhered by means of magnets to a metal plate. It’s true of Peter Fox, whose canvas, Royaume, the largest in the exhibition, consists of multicolor drips that form an undulating, almost hypnotic field.
Installation view as you enter the second-floor gallery from the stairs. From left: Peter Fox, Royaume; Marcus Linennbrink, Lightenyourdark and Stehafmannchen; my Mudra 1, 3 and 6; Carlos Estrada Vega, Marcus
My Mudra 6, Mudra 3 and Mudra 1, all encaustic on panel, 12 x 12 inches. Courtesy of Simon Gallery, Morristown, New Jersey
Below: Wil Jansen, Untitled, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches (shown in detail at top of post). Courtesy of Brenda Taylor Gallery, New York
Formally, the issue for all of these works and many of the others you will see, is a single element repeated again and again to form a whole—a maximal result from minimal means. The grid is an obvious organizational motif in some of the work, but the pattern of repetition and regularity, however different from artist to artist, provides the overarching structure of the show. Technically, each artist is in formidable control of his or her medium—a peak that holds its shape, a smoosh that doesn’t slump, a drip that remains eternally at the point where surface tension, about to give way, defies gravity. If you think that’s easy, you haven’t done it.
The works with a relatively flat surface have a whole lot going on under the smooth exterior, like James Lecce’s Chambord, poured and rushed swirls that activate the eye from beneath a transparent layer of resin. This is true of Carolanna Parlato’s Lemon Streak, too. The poured abstraction is ostensibly sleek, but look closer: beneath the enamel-like surface (she uses acrylic), there’s a tangible network of drips and pools—forever-to-be-unseen paintings giving shape to the one before your eyes.
As we move around the gallery, you can see James Lecce's Chambord and my Vicolo 35 through the plexi vitrines containing Linnenbrink's work. By the way, that bowling-pin shape of Linnenbrink's? Epoxy resin and pigment on a bowling pin
James Lecce, Chambord, acrylic polymer emulsion on canvas on panel, 40 x 72 inches. Courtesy of McKenzie Fine Art, New York
Continuing around the gallery: Alana Bograd, Chichi Charm School, oil on panel diptych (one panel visible), each 14 x 10 inches; Kathleen Kucka, Apparitions Hovering, acrylic on aluminum panels, diptych, 40 x 60 inches overall, courtesy of Brenda Taylor Gallery, New York. In the corner: two paintings by Leslie Wayne
Below: Leslie Wayne, Mondo Mondo, oil on wood, 47 x 6 inches (detail at top of post). Courtesy of the Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Leslie Wayne, One Big Love, 13, oil on panel, 13 x 10 inches. Courtesy of the Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Detail below:
Above: With Wayne's One big Love in the corner you see Carolanna Parlato's Lemon Streak, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 45 inches, straight ahead. Courtesy of the Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York
There are also sculptures, such as Gregg Hill’s installation of slumped forms, Beliefs. They look like vinyl but they’re painted steel—crushed helium cannisters, in fact. Touche, Gregg, for your neat trompe l'oeil. Estrada-Vegas’s Carlito is a physical extension into the third dimension of his gridded paintings. Then there’s Cecilia Biagini’s Emanates From a Center Point, a sinuous assemblage of painted wooden shims hanging on the wall. Is it flat sculpture or a dimensional painting? No matter, it’s formally rewarding and visually luscious, a satisfying paradigm of the exhibition theme.
Above: Cecilia Biagini, Emanates From a Center Point, acrylic and flashe on wood, 47 x 36 x 7 inches. Courtesy of The Hogar Collection, Brooklyn
Below: Gregg Hill, Beliefs, painted steel, dimensions variable
Swinging around to the face the gallery entrance: Gregg Hill, Beliefs; Robert Sagerman, 15,356, oil on canvas, 41 x 71 inches; Carlos Estrada-Vega, Carlitos, oleopasto, wax, pigment, oil and limestone on canvas, wood, and steel core, 13 x 13 x 13 inches. Sagerman and Estrada-Vega courtesy of Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York. (My big disappointment here: the details I shot of Sagerman's painting are too blurry to post.)
Another view toward the front of the gallery, from left to right: Lori Kirkbride, Untitled, acrylic polymer and resin on panel, app. 21 x 21 inches; two by Vincent Hamel (see view below); Ivana Brenner (see second view below); Linnenbrink's sculptures in the center; Vadim Katznelson, Privalok (shown in detail at top of post), polymer acrylic resin on canvas app. 13 x 13 inches; and two by Omar Chacon: Untitled #177, acrylic on canvas, app. 7 x 11 inches, and Untitled #103, acrylic on canvas, 42 x 54 inches, courtesy of Greene Contemporary, New York
Above: Vincent Hamel, Structure in Green, oil on wood, 14 x 19 x 2.5 inches. Courtesy of the Howard Scott Gallery, New York
To which I would add: The show is up through February 1. If you’re in the area, head on over and “listen in.”