Awash in Color: Sotto Voce and Music of Silence

"Through color I identify completely with space. I am really and truly liberated." --Yves Klein


"Sotto Voce" at Yvon Lambert, through June 7

Above: Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese, 1964-65; and Yves Klein, IKB#171, 1960


.Shhhhhh is the theme for this post. The color at Yvon Lambert is "Sotto Voce," Italian for under one's breath. The show is about monochromatic work. Yves Klein's blue is not exactly quiet and neither are some of the other works in the show, but in a strong season of dashing color worked forcefully hue against hue, monochrome--even as insistent and saturated as Klein's--comes across as understated. A palette cleanser, so to speak.

The Yvon Lambert gallery on 21st Street, now a beautifully illuminated, museum-like space, features an exhibition of works related to the idea of one color as object and presence. Some of the works are by artists long gone--Fontana and Klein, for instance--but other works were created in 2007 or 2008 specifically for this show. Looking around the gallery, I'd say that the works are not so much in conversation with one another but engaged in compatible monologs. I've posted a few installation shots, but the show is up through June 7, so you have a chance to see it for yourself.



.Foreground at Yvon Lambert: Pierre Soulanges, Peinture, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 103.54 x 71.25 (there are subtleties here, and the gallery website shows them)

Far wall: Enrico Castellani, Superficie Bianca, 2004, and Superficie Rossa, 2007; both acrylic on canvas, 59.06 x 59.06 inches


...At Yvon Lambert: Christopher Wool, one of several Untitled works from 2007, silkscreen ink on paper, 72 x 55 inches; and Gunther Uecker, Quiet Voice, 2008, white paint on nails on canvas on wood


I love the irony of Uecker's Quiet Voice, above right. The painting consists of nails hammered into a wood substrate. Gives new meaning to "deafening silence," no? From a distance, when I believed I was seeing just dots, I thought I was seeing a work by Kusama. She's also in the show, but I don't have an image, and the gallery website's Flash system doesn't let me pull any images. But you can see Kusama's work, plus that of the other artists in the show who are not included in this post--Brice Marden, Francois Morellet, Robert Morris and Lee Ufan--and installation shots on the gallery website. This is a show that invites sustained looking. I wish there were more benches to allow it.

Continuing the monochrome theme, we move uptown to Galerie Mourlot on East 79th Street, just off Fifth, where Susan Schwalb has a small solo show, "Music of Silence: Metalpoint Paintings and Drawings," up through June 21 (had been May 31; now it's extended for almost another month).



...Susan Schwalb at Galerie Mourlot: Music of Silence V, 2007, acrylic and silverpoint on wood, 24 x 24 x 2 inches


Schwalb has a similar agenda but a different effect. It is the contemplation of listening that seems to have motivated these works. And while we are contemplating Schwalb's expression of sound, there is, of course, much to see. Horizontal bands sit lightly atop a more or less monochrome surface, beneath which are revealed layers of color, some surprisingly strong. The bands suggest the cadence of music but also the strata of things, an effect heightened by the way the color is sanded to reveal the underlayers. There's a nice tension between the tranquil surface and the glimpses of what appear to be anything but. Maybe I'm reading too much into the work; formally these are beautiful compositions in which slight variations in the horizontal create pianissimo and fortissimo with the volume turned low.

Schwalb works in acrylic paint and silverpoint, so as she sands away the acrylic surface, she also adds to it via the veil-like ribbons of metal she lays down--silver, copper, bronze or gold. Simply dragging a small bar of metal across the surface will deposit an ephemeral layer of the stuff. Silverpoint, used conventionally for drawing (lead, too, is a metal) here becomes something like a brush.

You can see more of Schwalb's work on the Galerie Mourlot website, or on Schwalb's own website where the catalog is available as a PDF file.



Cheryl Cambras said...

powerful quiet. beautiful.

anne mcgovern said...

Amazing! Thank you once again for your unerring eye.

Eva said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Your commentary as well as the work.

Joanne Mattera said...

Hey, thanks, everyone!
And BTW, Susan's show has been extended to June 21. I'm going to amend the post now.