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American Painterly Abstraction: 7 Painters    Oct 29 - Dec 12, 2010


Artists's Reception: Friday, October 29, 2010, 5:30 - 7:30pm

Curated by Ronnie Landfield
Featuring: Dan Christensen, Ronald Davis, Ronnie Landfield, Emily Mason, William Pettet, Joan Snyder, and Peter Young

Santa Fe, NM—LewAllen Galleries is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, American Painterly Abstraction: 7 Painters, on view at LewAllen Galleries' Railyard venue from October 29 through December 12, 2010. Curated by artist Ronnie Landfield, and featuring works by Dan Christensen, Ronald Davis, Ronnie Landfield, Emily Mason, William Pettet, Joan Snyder, and Peter Young, the exhibition traces the evolution of seven distinct and expressive visual languages that manifest a dynamic reassessment of the possibilities of painting conceived in response to a decisive historical moment.

By the mid-1960s, the continuing viability of painting as an art form seemed unlikely at best. The demise of Abstract Expressionism and the ascendance of nontraditional art forms such as performance pieces, installation art, and post-studio practices left the medium in an ostensibly insurmountable bind. Abstract Expressionism had long been regarded as painting’s final frontier, and the ephemeral and context-driven works of the new art forms suggested that static, two-dimensional media were defunct—curtailing possibilities for artistic innovation within the painting genre. In the wake of such challenges, emerging artists sought to justify the prolongation of painting’s legacy by pushing past the bounds of Abstract Expressionism and engaging with new conceptual and aesthetic possibilities. Clement Greenberg coined the expression “Post-Painterly Abstraction” to describe these new efforts; however, his narrow definition of the term left little room for exploration, as he believed that artists must conform to a strict set of theoretical and methodological obligations to create successful work. American Painterly Abstraction: 7 Painters seeks to transcend any stringent limitations by at once acknowledging its inheritances and shaping a trajectory of Painterly Abstraction that steps beyond critical impositions.

To this purpose, this exhibition posits that a thorough reappraisal of the viable modes and instruments of image assembly was a crucial factor in navigating beyond an impasse in the evolution of abstraction. Presenting significant artworks from a period spanning more than twenty-five years, American Painterly Abstraction: 7 Painters aims to enrich our understanding of seven leading artists who have changed our expectations of painting and forever expanded the possibilities of contemporary art. Working in tandem with developing technologies and the evolving visual grammar of abstract gestures, these artists unveiled a highly individuated sense of the canvas, definitively crossing the watershed between the limits of modernism and the succession of a postmodern world.

Dan Christensen (1942-2007) earned his estimable position in art history by pioneering the incorporation of the spray gun into painting – an innovation that allowed him to blur the divide between rigorous mechanical control and expressive individual gesture. In a recent affirmation of Christensen’s sustained currency as an exemplar of artistic achievement, Roberta Smith, writing for The New York Times, declared that his art “would hold its own among works by Jackson Pollock or Sigmar Polke, to name but two.” Christensen is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Equally motivated by the perspective illusionism of Paolo Uccello, the essentialized geometrics of Mondrian, and the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, Ronald Davis (born 1937) lays to rest the notion that painterly abstraction must forgo any reference to space or illusionistic depth. Although largely recognized for combining two-point perspective with geometric forms, subtly alluding to both the last century’s preoccupation with flatness as well as the Western tradition of trompe l’oeilaesthetics, Davis's Music Series extends the scope of his work to translate auditory phenomena into the visual register. The artist’s work is held in the collections of many important institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art and Tate Britain. Ronald Davis appears in this exhibition courtesy of Charlotte Jackson Fine Art.

Ronnie Landfield (born 1947) was among the first to experiment with stained canvases in the late 1960s. Finding inspiration in abstract expressionism, Surrealist dreamscapes, and Song Dynasty Chinese landscape painting, Landfield juxtaposes hard-edged bands of color with fluid and organic forms, imbuing his surfaces with an engaging tension between color and form. Proclaimed by Dr. Louis A. Zona of the Butler Collection as “pure and simple, one of the greatest painters working in America today,” Landfield is featured in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Closely linked with abstract expressionism throughout the 1950s and 60s, Emily Mason (born 1932) has cultivated an articulate and bold use of color throughout her career. Employing subtle gradients of hue, scale, tone and value, Mason attains an expansive range of compositional arrangements that attest to her skill as a colorist as well as her clear-sighted observation of the natural world. Awarded the Ranger Fund Purchase Prize by the National Academy, her work garners international recognition; most recently, her latest show at LewAllen received acclaim in Art in America.

Combining spray guns, air compressors, staining techniques and fluid brushwork, William Pettet (born 1942) creates work of subtle harmony and rhythm, neatly layering paint while maintaining the integrity of the flat canvas. One of the most dynamic colorists working today, Pettet was included in the Whitney Museum's landmark exhibition Lyrical Abstraction and is featured in several important public collections.

Working in dialogue with Abstract Expressionism, Feminist art, and Post-Painterly Abstraction, Joan Snyder (born 1940) merges natural imagery with pentimento-laden surfaces and a sanguine color palate. The recipient of the 2007 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Snyder was recently honored with a major retrospective exhibition of her paintings at the Jewish Museum in New York City in 2005 and is featured in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, and the Phillips Collection.

Peter Young (born 1940) came to preeminence in 1967, with a stunning series of star-dot paintings that read as both night skies and specks on a canvas. He had his first solo show at the Noah Goldowsky Gallery in New York in 1967, and was included in the 1968 Whitney Biennial and in the 1972 Documenta. By the end of the 1980s, Young had painted several series of multi-colored dot paintings, abstract mandalas, and woven grids that extended the overall compositional understanding of Painterly Abstraction. Young was honored with a major retrospective of his painting at P.S. 1 in New York City in 2007.

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