Jun 132024

Lucas Arruda’s paintings for Assum Preto at David Zwirner capture moments in time that beckon you to look closer. On his Instagram is a photo of Agnes Varda with a quote that reads “If we opened people up, we’d find landscapes”. Standing in front of these paintings allows the viewer to contemplate Arruda’s inner landscapes as well as their own.

From the gallery-

“Assum Preto” continues Arruda’s investigations into the painted medium and its ability to serve as an evocative and transcendental conduit for the unveiling of light, memory, and emotion. The exhibition is titled after a species of blackbird native to eastern Brazil—whose mundane birdsong, according to local tradition, is said to transform into a beautiful melody if the bird’s eyesight has been shaded. As the artist explains: “It’s as if, when the bird has everything in sight, and is full of information and distractions, it can’t organize itself. Only when it’s no longer surrounded by images, can it organize everything in its head. In a certain way, I think this has to do with light.… For me, light is related to remembering.” In the works on view, light takes on a multitude of forms, surfacing in various physical, ideographical, and affective manifestations.

The exhibition is primarily composed of new paintings from Arruda’s established body of seascapes, junglescapes, and abstract monochromes; together, these works bring about a complex understanding of landscape as a product of a state of mind rather than a depiction of reality. The works on view are notable for their fogged colors—exploring subtle but intricate variations within a single hue—that range from dense reds to ethereal and almost intangible veils of white. For the monochromes, Arruda adds layer upon layer of pigment to pre-dyed raw canvas in an attempt to replicate its tinted hue in paint, methodically returning to each work for weeks or even months on end until the composition slowly builds into a hazy and ever-shifting wall of light.

The seascapes and junglescapes, on the other hand, are made on prepared surfaces using a reductive process whereby the impression of light is attained through the subtraction of pigment. Devoid of specific reference points, Arruda’s seascapes are all grounded only by their thin horizon lines. Above and below this border, charged atmospheric conditions engage further dichotomies between sky and earth, the nebulous and the solid, the psychic and the visual. The jungles, by contrast, dwell in verticality; their genesis lies in the artist’s formative memories of the verdant foliage outside his bedroom window. For Arruda, the quasi-mythical scenery of the Brazilian rainforest coaxes out tensions between reality and human imagination. Towering and impenetrable, yet containing a sense of the infinite that surpasses its physical bounds, in Arruda’s work the jungle becomes a site of power and enlightenment as much as it is a harbinger of darkness and uncertainty—a place where one can be lost to the world and find themselves again.

As curator Lilian Tone writes: “[Arruda’s] paintings suggest a tenuous, fugitive, and mediated relation to nature as that which informs an aesthetic language. As viewers, we tend to make sense of the slightest mark within an open field, to immediately perceive a horizontal line as a horizon line, to create clouds from a change in direction of brushstrokes, and to perceive ground from a thick impasto. Arruda makes paintings we experience as at once beyond abstraction and yet before representation.”

In “Assum Preto”, Arruda debuts a group of small-scale, semi-abstract paintings that are constructed from a lexicon of symbolist motifs, marking a new turn in the artist’s practice while also harking back to the planar and architectonic forms that characterize his early oeuvre. In these works, he takes visual cues from the geometries and rich colorscapes found in the Brazilian modernist paintings of José Pancetti (1902–1958), Alfredo Volpi (1896–1988), and Amadeo Luciano Lorenzato (1900–1995). Arruda handles his brush lightly but with intense control, creating clouds and thickets of markings that delicately carve through the painted surface of the canvas in a manner recalling the textures and physicality of intaglio printmaking processes. Potent and open-ended, the symbols and motifs that populate these compositions—darkly brewing storms, empty canoes, and strings of outdoor lights—visualize the themes that permeate Arruda’s body of paintings, including the artist’s own dreams, experiences, and intuitions, through the lens of the sacred and the surreal. The images shift in and out of focus, as if hovering at the precipice of memory itself.

Additionally featured is an example of Arruda’s site-specific light installations. These works comprise a pair of vertically balanced rectangles rendered directly on the gallery wall—the top one created through a light projection and the bottom one physically applied with paint—thus translating the genre of landscape into its most elemental form.

This exhibition closes 6/15/24.

Jun 072024

For Kazuyuki Takezaki’s exhibition Before Spring at 47 Canal, he presents distinctive versions of the landscape around his home in Marugame,  Japan.

The press release provides more detail-

…His current painting practice is deeply informed by the landscape around Marugame, with its plains ringed by low mountains in the distance. Often employing a grayish, chalky palette highlighted by blushes of orange shading into purple or white, he paints studies of plant life or mountain ridges as quickly rendered silhouettes that evoke miniature frescoes. In another body of work, he attaches canvas to a board and then sets out in his van to find a spot in the countryside, where he records his impressions in situ using oil stick. Comparing this practice to old men playing board games outdoors, he often spends several days on these “Board/Table” pieces, trying to keep up with the atmospheric conditions as they change hour by hour and day by day.

Both the canvases and the “Board/Table” pieces retain an element of the windowness of the earlier works in allowing for a coexistence of transparency and opacity. “At dusk, I often see the town horizontally divided into upper and lower halves by transparent and opaque color,”
Takezaki writes. Sometimes the sky looks like “solid gouache” while the town and trees are shot through with light, while at other times it’s the sky that takes on “a deeply transparent color” against the dark shadow of the town. The bands of color that occasionally bisect the small canvases at odd places, suggesting a horizon line but also arbitrary erasures, allude to this effect. They also come, Takezaki says, from a desire to work with multiple images at the same time. In a sense his works replicate the visual noise that accumulates on the surface of a window—replicate the agency of the window itself in simultaneously framing and interfering with the view.

But there is also a subtext to the works that pushes them beyond the tradition of the landscape-ranging from literati ink scrolls to amateur Sunday paintings and everything in between—into something that feels urgent and timely. According to Takezaki, the land around Marugame is dying. He can see it clearly in the sprawl being constructed in the plains, which drives away animal life, and the effects of fertilizer and other chemicals on the vegetation. The immediacy he strives for in his paintings—the way he tries to take everything all in at once, including the particles in the air and the brilliant light that illuminates the trees at dusk—is also an act of bearing witness to nature as a liminal zone between the worlds of the living and the dead. Communicating a profound yet fleeting sense of place, Takezaki’s windows onto this constantly shifting environment are also reflections on time, memory, and the porous overlaps between subject and object.

This exhibition closes 6/8/24.

Mar 152024

“Northern Lights”, 1959, oil on linen

“Untitled (Near the Cove)”, c. 1958, oil on linen

“Fresh Air”, c.1958-1962, oil on canvas

Although better known for her figurative paintings, Jane Freilicher also created several large abstract paintings which were on view last year at Kasmin gallery in NYC.  The paintings hint at a recognizable landscape, but through her use of color and energetic brush strokes she evokes the feeling of being immersed in the beauty of nature- without the boundaries of a more realistic representation.

From the gallery about the work-

The exhibition presents a group of paintings in degrees of abstraction, realized by Freilicher between 1958 and 1962, a period of great inventiveness when the artist was spending stretches of time in Long Island but had yet to establish a studio there. The series marks a crucial moment of discovery and focus for Freilicher, who went on to integrate the freedom, fluidity, and confidence developed during this period into her more recognizable still lifes and landscapes of later decades.

Freilicher’s abstractions have their roots in observation, informed by her studies with legendary abstract painter Hans Hofmann at his schools in New York and Provincetown. In this group of paintings, pastoral landscapes from Water Mill, Long Island, are translated through the lens of the artist’s memory into confident gestural compositions defined by their use of color and sensitive depiction of light. In a 2006 interview for The New York Sun, the artist tells writer Jennifer Samet of this evolutionary moment in her practice: “I remember being overwhelmed by aqueous light and the obliteration of the horizon by fog.” Freilicher’s palette returns repeatedly here to a combination of off-white and light blue, rendered in loose brushwork across an expansive pictorial space to give a palpable impression of the airy, open landscape of the country.

Breaking out of the domestic scale necessitated by previous studio spaces, this generative period saw Freilicher regularly visiting Water Mill and then returning to her Manhattan studio where she would collapse the formal elements of the rural and coastal environments into energetic, improvisational paintings that were significantly larger than her earlier works. While approaching pure abstraction, the paintings from this period retain a compositional recognition of their ordering principles—the horizon line, a boat’s mast, the position of the sun in the sky, and, in the artist’s words, “long vistas of clouds and water.”

The metamorphosis of landscapes that figure prominently in the artist’s life are representative of, as Roberta Smith identified in 2006, “a more personal, grounded version of Color Field painting.” This observation bridges Freilicher to a loose group of contemporaries whose considerations of their immediate environments brought great warmth and aliveness to varying shades of abstraction—Milton Avery, Etel Adnan, Joan Mitchell, Agnes Martin, and Willem de Kooning (whose own abstract landscapes inspired by his time on Long Island went on view at Sidney Janis Gallery in 1959).