Stephen Pusey "Strange Attractors"
January 27 - February 19, 2021
Artist Reception: Wednesday, January 27 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM
NOTE: The number of people in the gallery at any one time will be limited for safety purposes due to the pandemic and face coverings are required for entry and at all times
Private viewings are available by appointment, please call or email the gallery to schedule.
David Richard Gallery, LLC
211 East 121 ST | New York, NY 10035
P: (212) 882-1705
David Richard Gallery is pleased to present, Strange Attractors, the gallery’s first solo exhibition for New York artist, Stephen Pusey. This exhibition focuses on eleven new paintings from 2020 and 2021, conceived of and created during the Covid 19 pandemic and the shutdowns therefrom. While this new series of paintings is rooted in the artist’s familiar complex overlays of linear abstractions and dense color with references to calligraphy and symbols, these new paintings are aesthetically different from Pusey’s more recent series of paintings. The key divergent characteristic is the emergence of distinct forms that often nod to representational elements, albeit still quite abstract and obscured. To map the recent visual migration, this presentation includes: three paintings from 2019, three from 2018 and three more from 2017.
The comparison of Pusey’s series of paintings from 2017 to 2021 reveals in the earlier paintings, generally, an all over composition comprised of thinner, more consistent widths of lines and colors of similar values. The general effect was a flattening of the paintings, except when the artist would use a much lighter value or more vivid color in a particular signature that made that structure the focal point of that particular painting. The migration to using more vivid colors of varying values and wider lines, created bands of those bolder colors that gave rise to not only the distinct forms, but more dynamic compositions full of energy (think chi).
The exhibition will be on view January 27 through February 19, 2021 at David Richard Gallery located at 211 East 121 Street, New York, New York 10035, P: 212-882-1705. Everyone can interact and participate in the exhibition in several different ways: 1) in person and safely socially distanced while wearing a face covering; 2) privately by appointment; 3) online at the following link: https://www.davidrichardgallery.com/exhibit/528-stephen-pusey to view a video interview and discussion with the artist, digital catalog, 360 degree video, installation images and exhibition checklist.
About Pusey’s Paintings:
The impetus for the newest series of paintings created in 2020 (and the most recent in January, 2021) was a large five-part mural created by Pusey, titled, Dragon Song, that measures 9 foot in height by 68 feet in length. Commissioned by Seoul City, it was executed in just seven days in December, 2019 on the masonry walls of a recently created pavilion in the Oil Tank Culture Park, Mapo-Gu, Seoul, Korea. Everything was different about this mural: a support made of concrete, masonry paint for the medium, cold weather and a compressed time frame—all required the artist to move and create faster than ever before. It was fortuitous, such conditions generated both an unbelievable burst of energy as well as well as creativity and a streamlined process—the brush strokes were wider, higher contrasting colors, simplified compositions and larger forms took center stage and repeating signatures of structures and shapes created compositional cohesion.
The artist typically works in a spontaneous manner with no drawings or preconceived notions as to what he intends to paint. His process is initially automatic to lay down the ground, then the rest of the painting evolves organically on the canvas as the last brush stroke informs and dictates the next. However, given the scale of the mural, multiple variables described above and a compressed timeframe, the artist decided while each section would be a standalone painting, all five of them had to work together to create a single painting.
Pusey comments about the title of the mural and a deeper source that inspires and informs his work more broadly, “As the work evolved I began to muse about a dragon weaving through the five elements: fire, earth, metal, air and water. The title, “Dragon Song”, occurred to me – which connected with a concept fundamental to my work – that of resonant signatures. I think of all of existence as being comprised of resonance – from the smallest particle to everything in the entire Universe. In this title I conflated the myth of the Eastern Dragon with the Celtic creation myth, Òran Mór (Gaelic: "Great Song") – about a song which starts as a low whisper and gradually builds in volume until all of creation is brought into existence. I play with these ideas as a way of understanding the process of my work and our existence. It is not just the Song OF the Dragon; the Song IS the Dragon.”
Stepping back even further in time regarding the evolution of Pusey’s linear abstract paintings, the subject of this exhibition, his concept of “signatures” is key. Signatures, just like the calligraphic marks on a page, are unique. Signatures emerge out of the chaos, they often repeat and become more familiar and function as a structure and organizational device as Pusey’s paintings evolve organically and in an autonomic manner on the canvas. Once a familiar or repeating structure appears, it is an easy leap for such structures to become the focal point(s) and dominant forms in the compositions, which is further facilitated with vibrant color and distinctly different value shifts. Think of the signatures as nucleation sites for crystallization and the unique dominant forms emerging as crystals aggregate out of an otherwise homogenous mixture.
Elaborating further on the evolution of Pusey’s aesthetic elements and linear abstractions over a longer period of time, common to all of this work since 2003 is both the nexus and flux of “abstraction, form and perspectival space”. He also states that his process is one “in which imagination, the subconscious and critical judgment work in tandem.” The earlier works were akin to layers of line drawings that created dense, canvas-filling lines that looked woven and interlacing with one another. The thinner lines and consistent color values rendered the paintings flatter, with some, but not much perspectival space, yet clearly and physically layered one over the other with little illusory depth and no focal point or forms. Up close, the early paintings seemed chaotic with the exquisite detail of the lines, daunting uniformity of the line width and equivalent tonal values of the colors and almost mesmerizing uniform movement across the canvas. Interestingly, from a distance they read more as color abstractions, the uniformities noted above actually seemed less chaotic and more serene, they had become “ground” and almost atmospheric.
As the artist began to utilize a wider range of color values and bolder colors with higher contrast, the resulting structures became the “figure” relative to the more uniform values and tones of the other colors, which all such structures, collectively, became the “ground”. The evolution had begun. Over time, the widths of the lines also began to increase and varied within subsequent compositions, and more recently have become bands. Combined with the shifting color values, and more open grounds, the signature marks have become distinct forms and the subject of the newest paintings. These forms are reminiscent of tubes, elliptical rings, bones and other quasi representational forms.
A last point, Pusey’s process is completely transparent and revealed. Given he utilizes an autonomic approach to laying down the initial underpainting—that in his words, “is usually a varied mid tone color which I may then break up with darker colours to create a suggestive and random field into which I continue to work autonomically”—and then layers everything over it, pentimenti is a real and important part of his process. The pentimenti provides both a soft atmospheric ground that accentuates the perspectival and illusory depth in the newer paintings, especially in combination with the translucent layers of color and clearly overlapping layers of lines and signature shapes. This transition is not entirely unexpected, as Pusey’s aesthetic interests and path began as a surrealist painter, then to a photo realist, social realist and muralist, and eventually a transition from a figurative painter to an imaginative painter and non-objective abstractionist.
About Stephen Pusey:
Stephen Pusey was born in London in 1952 and graduated from St. Martins School of Art in 1975.
From 1977 to 1982, he painted monumental public murals around London commissioned by local authorities. In 1986, he exhibited at PS1 (MoMA PS1) after which New York became his home. In the following years, Pusey experimented with various forms including digital and networked media. In 1996, he co-founded the online art and discussion hub Plexus (plexus.org) with curator Yu Yeon Kim. He was a founding member of the Foundation for Digital Culture (1996) and a contributing artist to Arsdoom (Peter Weibel, et al) for Ars Electronica (1995). In 1997 he co-curated OMNIZONE, Perspectives in Mapping Digital Culture which was featured on the Guggenheim Museum's Cyberatlas website (curated by Jon Ippolito).
Concurrent with his empirical digital and net art – his painting followed a personal trajectory which, while Abstract, was informed by an interest in physical, neurological and biological resonance. Referring to his 2013 solo exhibition at Guided By Invoices, Art in America wrote,
All his concerns come together, dynamically, in these recent
paintings whose swirling, multicolor lines evoke-in perspectival
depth - genetics, cosmology, Information networks and personal
signature. (excerpt, “The Lookout” 01/24/13)
The artist has had various solo and group exhibitions in New York City and internationally and his work is in international public, corporate and private collections, including Neuberger Berman.
About David Richard Gallery:
Since its inception in 2010, David Richard Gallery has produced museum quality exhibitions that feature Post War abstraction in the US. The presentations have addressed specific decades and geographies as well as certain movements and tendencies. While the gallery has long been recognized as an important proponent of post-1960s abstraction—including both the influential pioneers as well as a younger generation of practitioners in this field—in keeping with this spirit of nurture and development the gallery also presents established artists who embrace more gestural and representational approaches to the making of art as well as young emerging artists.
In 2015 David Richard Gallery launched DR Art Projects to provide a platform for artists of all stripes—international, national, local, emerging and established—to present special solo projects or to participate in unique collaborations or thematic exhibitions. The goal is to offer a fresh look at contemporary art practice from a broad spectrum of artists and presentations. The Gallery opened its current location in New York in 2017.
All Artwork Copyright © Stephen Pusey, Courtesy David Richard Gallery.
All Photographs Copyright © Stephen Pusey