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  • David Richard Gallery

Gestural Abstraction

Catherine Howe Bodegon (for Juan Gris), 2015 Oil, acrylic mediums, pigment, on linen 52" x 60" Copyright © Catherine Howe

David Richard Gallery has gathered together a mix of historical and current paintings and works on paper by artists whose connecting thread is the gestural brush. Ranging from first-generation Abstract Expressionists to emerging practitioners, the presentation is a mini-survey of post-war abstraction.

Elaine de Kooning After Lascaux, 1984 Lithograph, ed. 2 / 18 33" x 46" Copyright © Elaine de Kooning Estate

In 1983, Elaine de Kooning visited the Paleolithic caves of Lascaux in southwestern France. These marvels of pre-historic painting had a profound impact on the artist and she immediately embarked on a body of paintings, drawings and prints directly influenced by what she experienced. As she stated in 1987:

"The cave painters took tremendous liberties with proportions. That's what fascinated me--to make a horse in as many ways as possible. And I loved the jumps in scale. Some animals were tiny, others huge. I liked the profusion of animals, too, one superimposed upon another, and the contrast of both crude and primitive forms versus sophisticated ones.

"There's also a tremendous immediacy about the cave work that has much more to do with today's art, than, let's say, with Renaissance art. There's this directness, when you can see exactly how it's done. . . . Especially in the dazzling caves at Lascaux, no matter how ungainly or disproportionate, you know immediately this is a horse, a bison. All of these visual stimulations fit exactly into everything I've been doing as an artist."

Willem de Kooning Paris Review, 1979 Lithograph ed. 124 / 200 23" x 29" Copyright © Willem de Kooning Estate

The famous journal of literature and culture, The Paris Review, has long commissioned visual artists from Robert Rauschenberg to Keith Haring to create limited edition prints to benefit its foundation. In the 1970s Willem de Kooning produced several prints for the magazine. The lithograph Paris Review from 1979 incorporates the signature elements of collage, graffiti and bold gestures of color.

Emily Mason Myself Be Noon, 2002 Oil on canvas 39" x 38" Copyright © Emily Mason

Born in New York in 1932, Emily Mason comes from a long line of distinguished artists. Her mother, Alice Trumbull Mason, was an influential participant in the early days of American abstraction and a descendant of the famous history painter John Trumbull.

Her first solo exhibition in New York was at the Area Gallery in 1960. The gallery, founded by painter Ed Moses, was one of several artist-run spaces on East 10th Street, representing the avant-garde in New York in the late 50s and early 60s.

Writing in The Brooklyn Rail, publisher and critic Phong Bui describes Mason's position between abstract expressionism and color field painting, noting: "She was interested in neither the former’s existential angst nor the latter’s use of absorbed color pigments on raw canvas (she paints on primed canvases). By allowing painterly gestures to coexist with thin, poured layers in a wide range of colors in all manner of hues and saturations, Mason is able to amplify her colors—which are infused with forms that derive from both memory and free association with concrete surroundings in nature—while embracing their complex tonalities."

Rolph Scarlett Abstract Green Mixed Media On Paper 12" x 17" (Framed: 19 ¼" x 24 ½" ) Copyright © Rolph Scarlett Estate

Canadian-born Rolph Scarlett occupies an interesting and curious place in the annals of American Modernism. A jeweler (a skill learned from his father), craftsman and Hollywood set designer, Scarlett earned his living primarily as a commercial artist until a chance encounter with Paul Klee inspired him to devote his talent to painting. He succeeded in catching the eye of Hilla Rebay, Solomon R. Guggenheim’s art advisor and curator to his Museum of Non-Objective Art. An early champion of Scarlett, Rebay added a group of works, second only to Kandinsky, to the Guggenheim collection.

Scarlett’s tendency to explore other forms of abstraction led to a falling out with Rebay, who accused him of abandoning the Non-Objective tenets of Kandinsky and Bauer. Interestingly this came at a time when he achieved his most critical success. A New York Times review of his 1949 exhibition at Jacques Seligmann Gallery commented: "The impression made by these paintings is one of originality and strength."

Phillis Ideal Party Time, 2015 Acrylic and collage on panel 36" x 36" Copyright © Phillis Ideal

Roswell native and Santa Fe resident Phillis Ideal brings a different methodology to her practice. What begins as an easel painting is transformed by elements cannibalized from other materials and experiments to create a collage of painted surfaces. The result is a fluid interplay of color, form and texture.

Susan Morosky Winter Bay II Acrylic on canvas 48" x 48" Copyright © Susan Morosky

Susan Morosky has cited Per Kirkeby as an influence and that is very much in evidence in her references to the natural environment. Like nature, the works are imbued with a strong compositional structure that is visually softened by diffused brushstrokes.

Luke Gray Strokeworld 0907, 2010 Varnished acrylic on canvas 42" x 40" Copyright © Luke Gray

The urban landscape informs the seemingly free-form compositions of Luke Gray. His recent work has moved from the tight, mosaic shapes of the Syncmasters series to a more gestural approach. This has allowed for a more subtle palette and a greater variety of marks across the surface of the canvas.

Catherine Howe references the subject matter of the Dutch Baroque and harnesses the energy within. However, that energy is not limited to composition alone, but is made manifest in the variety of traditional and experimental materials and supports that she employs. These disparate elements are combined in an aggressively gestural manner that obscures the subject and objectifies the resultant work. These paintings are almost more about process than in transposing an image, as Howe engages in what she calls ‘a swooning, painterly perfection.’ She continues: ‘The unexpected behavior of the surfaces and materials help to thwart my sure hand and prevents mere “depiction”, something I truly want to avoid.’

Matt King Bang, Ouch, Pow Acrylic on linen 30" x 30" Copyright © Matt King

The youngest member of this gathering is Texas transplant Matt King whose paintings are born out of an observation of the architecture of interior space. Instead of a reduction of form, King layers his paintings with shapes and gestures in alternating keys, referencing early modernists such as Stuart Davis and Andre Lanskoy. His seemingly intuitive approach is anchored by a disciplined spatial structure that lies beneath the surface.

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