As newcomers will quickly find, ‘New York’ is an umbrella term for a plethora of neighborhoods and communities, all with their abundantly distinct personalities and qualities. After a while, the same newcomers might ask themselves, “Where do I fit in this metropolis?” Inevitably the answer is that New York is their oyster, and no singular area fits a singular boot.
The same can be said for art. When people talk about painting, often an image of a serene landscape or a historical portrait comes to mind, but painting is not limited to our conventional perceptions. A vast abundance of styles, concepts and materials unite under the label ‘painting’, as you will see in the following three must-see shows, now on in New York.
Richard Tuttle is well known for his playfully investigative approach to painting. His concern for the viewer’s aesthetic experience of the works is illustrated through his inquisitive use of line, shape, color, and texture. The title of the exhibition, ‘26’ refers to a number of different qualities embodied in the exhibited works themselves – 26 lines, symbols, signs, systems and letters and each work feels personal, playful and unique. The works feel collaborative as if they are borrowing materials and textures from one another. As a group, they feel sensitive to their gallery environment, and there is something very accessible about the nature of the work itself.
‘Shaped Paintings’ brings together a collection of Mike Kelley’s oval and shaped works on wood from the 1990’s. His work often uses personal memories, including traumas, to create his colorful and dark compositions alongside physical mind-maps. The works are often ‘unconventionally’ created – methods like finger-painting are used to depict an insight into another’s reality. If you will try for a moment to imagine being a voyeur inside someone else’s mind, what you might find there – this show colorfully recreates the mind of Kelley, preserving memory and time in sometimes abstract, sometimes figurative compositions that jump out at you.
During the decade in which these works were made, Phillip Guston’s paintings transform and evolve at a rapid pace. Seeing the show is akin to being on a fast train through the fields of gesture, abstraction, and figuration. There is something wonderfully inspiring about the forward motion felt with this collection of works, the sense of a journey undertaken by the artist and the energy displayed by brush marks. For the most part, what this exhibition shows consistently, (by contrast to the confident inconsistency of Guston’s practice during this time), is the sensational fluidity of the genre of ‘painting’ itself. The questioning and ever progressing relationship that Guston has for his own medium, shows through this diverse range of works.