Critical Mass.: Nancy White at Steven Zevitas

Gallery in Boston's South End

Nancy White, #40, 2012, acrylic on paper, 10 x 8 inches

BOSTON--Less than a mile south of Newbury Street is the South End, a once thriving, then down-and-out, and now thriving-again area that holds the majority of the city's galleries. If Newbury Street is the 57th Street of Boston, then the South End is its Chelsea, SoHo and Lower East Side all rolled into one.
Nancy White's first solo show in Boston is up now at the Steven Zevitas Gallery in the South End, through January 26.  White, an accomplished and much-exhibited painter who lives and works in San Francisco, makes the kind of quiet painting that would get swallowed up at an art fair. But in a modestly sized gallery such as Steven Zevitas’s, and with an installation such as the one he gave her—enough space between the works for the contemplation of each one—the setting was perfect.

The spare installation

White’s work—small unframed paintings which appear almost monochromatic from a distance—reward a patient viewer with a richness of composition and hue. Once you get close enough, the paintings pull you in as if by chromatic magnetism. Those "monochromes"  hold a value-constant spectrum of one hue, along with grays that appear to have a complementary tinge. It's hard to tell about those complements, because they might be doing what the eye wants the color to do--or what White is directing the color to do.  I thought their creamy flatness was gouache, but it's acrylic. There's a lot of mastery in those little paintings.

Nancy White at the opening of her show, New Work. The painting at her left shoulder is the one that opens this post; the one behind her is shown below

Compositionally, White fills the plane with hard-edge geometric shapes. Allow your eyes to wander and you'll find that those flat shapes in flat colors do something unexpected: They begin to suggest pictorial space. Indeed it seems that the closer you are to the work, the deeper the space becomes. This is definitely what White is directing the composition to do. Personally I waver between wanting to see them as pure abstraction and allowing my eye to wander into their depths.

#35, 2012, acrylic on paper, 10 x 8 inches

 #42, 2-12m acrylic on paper, 10.5 x 8.75 inches

As I was wandering pictorially, I found myself thinking of the Cave of the Sibyl of Cumae, near Naples. I'm not sure that's what White had in mind, but that's the thing about opening up ambiguous space. You never know where it will lead.

Entrance to the cave. Image from Wikipedia

Another view. Image from Philip Coppens blog
#44, 2012, acrylic on paper, 10.5 x 8.5 inches
See more of Nancy White's work on the gallery website
Read The Boston Globe review here


Roberta Warshaw said...

Her work is really lovely. It is interesting if you go to her web site and go backwards in time to see her progression to this point. She really has never wavered from the geometry. The colors are pure bliss for me.

Tamar said...

This is wonderful work with quietly complex spatial relationships. I just spent time at White's website and came across a series of painted steel wall sculptures. Once again, very intimate in scale and quite beautiful.

David A. Clark said...

I'm particularly drawn to the slight tonal variations in the color. There is something stirring for me both visually and emotionally. I keep thinking of Joseph Albers, but much more sophisticated, like tracing the tradition of Albers but with soul.

annell4 said...

Wonderful work. Thanks so much for the post!

annell4 said...

The little words or letters and numbers seem to be getting harder to know what they are?

Diane McGregor said...

Strong work. Thank you for the introduction, Joanne.

Jennifer said...

Hi Joanne! I'm glad to have found your blog and look forward to more posts. I found you from a google search for "International Contemporary Masters". I just received an email from them and it seemed fishy. Nice to meet you and thank you for helping other artists!

Samhita said...

Wow! These are wonderful!