Mar 162023

Cy Gavin, “Untitled (Yellow pine),” 2023

Cy Gavin, “Untitled (Crossroads/meadow), 2022

Cy Gavin, “Untitled (Crossroads/meadow), 2022

Cy Gavin, “Untitled (Crossroads/meadow), 2022 (detail)

It’s the last week to see Cy Gavin’s painting exhibition at Gagosian’s 21st location in NYC.

From the gallery’s press release-

Gavin’s landscape paintings transmute subjective responses to specific places into expansive works with striking palettes and fluid, gestural brushwork. Composed in dimensions that are in keeping with the scale of experience, these paintings interpret the sites and processes of the natural world. In this body of work, Gavin concentrates on subjects he finds in the vicinity of his studio in New York’s Hudson Valley. He proposes a conception of landscape in relation to his status as a citizen and steward of the land, developing ways to explore themes of growth, renewal, and belonging.

Gavin’s paintings respond to the land as he finds it, which he endeavors to preserve and rewild. Made following the artist’s move to his current studio in early 2020, these works are also undergirded by the tensions of our time, which are marked by periods of solitude and upheaval.

Operating both as a gestural abstraction and as a painterly interpretation of a patch of ground near his studio, Untitled (Crossroads/meadow) (2022) depicts the intersection of paths bordered by tall grass in a fiery palette dominated by yellows, oranges, and pinks, evoking the blazing heat and brightness of the late summer sun. Along with the traditional symbolism of directionality and decision-making that is inherent to crossroads, this view presents a previously manicured lawn that the artist allowed to regrow into a meadow, with mown paths allowing access through it.

The verdant Untitled (Paths in a meadow) (2022) revisits the motif, placing the viewer low to the ground so that burgeoning grass and wildflowers divide the picture plane. Untitled (Paths, crossing—blue) (2022) is a nocturnal scene that conveys the enveloping darkness of a moonlit night. Gavin composed the painting with shades of blue that range from the diffuse washes over raw canvas in its foreground to dark, opaque passages that demarcate a tree line and open up to a star-filled sky. In a related palette of blues, Floor Painting #1 (Natural spring) (2023) is a mural-size work inspired by the dynamic waters of a spring. Displayed horizontally, the painting’s surface conveys the experience of looking down into the roiling currents, light variably revealing its depths and movements.

The themes of boundaries and borders are also prominent in Untitled (Rhododendron border) (2022), a painting in which sweeping brushstrokes describe the leaves of a woodland shrub on a dark ground, beyond which nothing can be seen. Its opacity expresses its function: the privacy achieved by a hedge the artist sited along the thoroughfare adjoining his property.

Other conceptions of time, place, and growth emerge in Untitled (Baldcypress) (2022), a painting in complementary hues that expresses the robust growth of one of the many saplings that Gavin has planted on his property. Outside its current natural range, this ancient species of tree once thrived in New York State, with this specimen now brought back to the area. Reflecting a mix of natural forces and the history of human interventions that defines the land, Untitled (Grass growing on a weir) (2022) depicts currents of water as they pass over the concrete slabs of a former dam that is now fully submerged. Simultaneously revealing and concealing visual information, the painting exists as an amalgam of past and present that defines the specificities of this place.

This exhibition closes 3/18/2023.

Mar 032023

Ulf Puder, “Winterlandschaft”, 2017

Ulf Puder, “Großer Felsen”, 2022

Ulf Puder “Taormina”, 2018

Ulf Puder, “Kleine Winterlandschaft”, 2022

Ulf Puder, “Willy Lott’s House”, 2022

For Ulf Puder’s painting exhibition at Marc Straus gallery in NYC, he has created paintings of subjects both natural and man-made in different states of decay and isolation, a reflection of the issues in our current world.

From the press release-

Ulf Puder, a landscape artist for 20 years, looks at the genre as a cultural concept, defining it as a clash between nature and culture. In his invented landscapes, he addresses cultural and political developments across Europe. He considers the two years of the pandemic, the energy crisis, the current Russian/Ukrainian war, other regional economic uncertainties, and various global conflicts. Puder approaches these struggles through romanticism, a viewpoint that is not in denial, but that plays on our weakness, laxed attitude, and idealism. Among the new works, one painting depicts a collapsing mountain, another an exploding rock. The rock, symbolic and powerful, signifies protection while also reflecting the broken state of the new world order. In addressing this dichotomy, the natural strength of the rock, millions of years unchanged, now begins to crumble with human intervention.

In Willy Lott’s House, Puder references a painting by John Constable that is influential in his work. The painting depicts a small American period house with contrasting dark clouds in the background and a well-lit foreground. The lighting is dramatic: electric lights, reflection on the water, an absence of sunlight and moonlight. A recurring question for Puder is how would one go about a painting today that was painted 100 or 200 years ago? He concludes that the first step is to recycle the title, closely followed by contemporary additions to the original version. The Icebergs, the title of a painting by American landscape artist Frederic Edwin Church, was painted in 1861. With this work, Puder has used the image in varying versions in his own work to address pressing contemporary issues. The icebergs, the mountains, and the alps are part of the artist’s experiences, while also acting as metaphors for cultural and political changes.

Puder’s creative process is traditional with a few contemporary twists. The earlier works were created entirely with brush and paint. He now uses a spatula with a deliberate application of paint to specific parts of the canvas; a roof, or a river path, for instance, are now more brilliant through the use of a new technique. He uses tape occasionally to create defined edges, and to create important elements of the pictorial plane, such as broken structures and melting icebergs. Puder argues that despite our infinite capacity to destroy, by shifting focus we can build up. In his continued quest to create quixotic worlds, he continues to look at nature and culture, and how a shift in one often impacts the other.

This exhibition closes 3/5/23.

Feb 232023

Neil Welliver, “Big Flowage”, 1979

Neil Welliver, “Big Flowage”, 1979 (detail)

Neil Welliver, “Marsh Shadow”, 1984

Neil Welliver quote on the gallery wall

Currently at Alexandre Gallery in NYC are Neil Welliver’s gorgeous paintings and works on paper, spanning his career from the late 1960s-2000, and including his last woodcut print, Stump.

From the gallery’s website

In his 2005 New York Times obituary, Ken Johnson wrote:

Mr. Welliver came of age as an artist in the late 1950’s and 60’s, at a time when nonrepresentational styles of painting like Abstract Expressionism and, later, Color Field and Minimalism were accorded the highest critical prestige. Along with artists like Larry Rivers, Alex Katz and Philip Pearlstein, Mr. Welliver strove to paint representational images without sacrificing the formal innovations that the Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning had introduced to modern painting.

Welliver’s lifelong friend, the American poet Mark Strand, wrote of his process in 2001:

What sets Welliver’s woods apart from the woods of others is that they are, of course, his. We see them and know instantly who painted them. That stream plunging and swirling around those gray rocks is familiar, so are those clouds parading in ragged order across that sky spreading a midday blue over those hills. They are all part of Welliver’s woods. The unaffectedness, the ease with which they are simply there, without a hint of what went into their making, without an indication anywhere of the turmoil that prompted them, is what sets them apart. Of course, we can see the many brush strokes in a large Welliver and believe that they—in their tireless application—tell us what goes into a Welliver, but we would be wrong, for there is much in a Welliver that we cannot see. In the past of each one are the long hikes into the woods, which Welliver takes, loaded down with easel, canvas, brushes, oil, thinner, and tubes of color, to the spot where he will paint; then there are the hours he stands, in all kinds of weather, and paints what will be the small preparatory paintings on which he bases the large drawings that lead finally to the large paintings.

This exhibition closes 2/25/23.