February 15, 2012

New York Galleries in February

 

Ridley Howard, Bedroom #3, night, 2011, Oil on linen, 5 x 7 in.

 

RIDLEY HOWARD: SLOWS
Through February 25
Leo Koenig Inc.

In Howard’s second solo exhibition with this gallery, he has found his stride. Comprised of small (5 x 7 inches) to medium-sized portraits, landscapes and abstractions, the installation draws the audience into a world where the hectic buzz of our metropolitan city quickly evaporates. The dim lighting provides each painting with a timeless glow — and, prompted by the exhibition title, we are encouraged to slow down.

Though Howard’s quest is embracive of influences, his concoction is unique. True, Alex Katz, Tom Wesselmann or Kazimir Malevich come to mind when perusing his visual vocabulary — Edward Hopper or 1970s Gerhard Richter can be found in the atmospheric treatment of light that initiates an overall sense of forlorn stillness. However, Howard’s absorption of 20th century classics is far from nostalgic. He simply applies his thorough knowledge of the latter to achieve sophistication. Meanwhile, it seems that Howard is as much interested in setting a mood as he is in harvesting unusual relationships between color and form. His paintings pull one from afar, but truly start to radiate when examined up close. Each work is an amalgam of intelligent compositional decisions. The subjects might be rendered with a sense of restraint — but Howard’s handling of paint, its soft touch that makes for creamy surfaces and blurry lines, allows for a glimpse of the Romantic.

“Slows” proves that Howard is one of the few artists who can work equally well in figuration and abstraction. His paintings enable us to find characteristics of the former in the latter and vice versa. His geometric shapes easily translate into flattened architectural structures seen from above, while his figures or depiction of a building can be dissected into individual abstract forms. Inspired by avant-garde filmmakers of the late 1960s/1970s, Howard stresses that the ordinary can be psychologically charged and steeped in symbolic meaning.

 

Installation View: Paul Heyer (left) and Virginia Poundstone (right).


PAUL HEYER/VIRGINIA POUNDSTONE: I KNOW THAT I AM AWAKE
Through February 26
Rachel Uffner Gallery

This exhibition brings together work by the Los Angeles-based Paul Heyer and Virginia Poundstone, who lives and works in New York. Heyer works in painting, his compositions bordering on the whimsical. Birds, blue leaves set against a yellow sky and a street lamp enveloped by a sea of swirling leaves in red light make up some of his imagery in this particular installation. They are poetic snapshots of a world that we know from children’s books illustrations rather than daily life — dreamlike meditations on a “could be-should-be” wish for reality. Heyer’s loose and spontaneous brushwork further adds a sense of animated positivism.

In contrast, Poundstone’s sculptures exude post-conceptual cool. She works with ceramic tile, brass and steel. Her works are organized and largely geometric — except for the occasional swirls of steel, onto which she prints digital images of rhododendron. In Poundstone, we find a futuristic vision of nature. It might evoke some characteristics of the organic but its presentation is highly artificial. As a result, her works translate as iconic reminders that the world as we know it is fragile and seriously threatened. Both these artists ponder nature — but whereas Heyer provides an almost nostalgic look at the world, Poundstone presents her take with more reserve and dramatic impact.

It is in the combination of these two unlike worldviews that this installation becomes the more thought-provoking. After all, we are only truly awake if we look back, as well as well as forward.


Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Landscape IV, 1990


JEAN-FRÉDÉRIC SCHNYDER
Through February 26
Swiss Institute

This solo presentation of the well-established and self-taught Swiss artist navigates between charm and repulsion. Small canvases (35 of them) are installed in a vast space, forcing the viewer to slowly narrow in on the subject. While coined “Landschaft’ [Landscape], Schnyder is specifically pondering the concept of home (with all its inherent ideals, threats and colors). The series dates from 1990 and 1991, and each painting offers a variation on a small house — the archetype of a domestic microcosm. His imagination is rich and he finds as much inspiration in the witch’s shack from Hansel and Gretel as he does in the abstract silhouette of a house set against an abstract and heavily impasto-ed background. Stylistically he is hard to classify. There is tongue-in-cheek humor in a scene of two dogs watching a Pluto cartoon in a kitchy living room, for example — and there is the idyllic rendition of a house snowed in and enveloped by a mysterious pine forest. There also is darkness. One composition depicts a house set in a vast landscape with smoke pouring out its chimney, forming a Swastika. Another shows a house set next to a large burning candle, dramatically stressing that all things must pass.

The startling diversity is the product of Schnyder’s dedication to a thorough investigation. He examines his subjects from all angles and works serially. For his installation at the Venice Biennale in 1993, he completed a body of work entitled “Wanderung” (“Hike”). To prepare, he hiked along a Swiss national highway from East to West and painted 119 vistas of the traffic, portraying scenic Switzerland from an unusually mundane perspective. While Schnyder’s process can be conceptual and his tone ironic, it is the sense of purity found in his hand that makes his work hard to place. He embodies the oxymoron of a naïve satirist. Despite a long and successful career — including his participation at the legendary Documenta 5 in Kassel, Schnyder has remained little known outside of Europe. This exhibition offers an excellent opportunity to brush up on an obscure visionary.

 

Terry Winters, Reprise, 2010, oil on paper mounted on composite board, 38 1/2 x 52 in.


TERRY WINTERS: CRICKET MUSIC, TESSELLATION FIGURES, & NOTEBOOK
Through Apr. 14
Matthew Marks

In his new installation of 14 large-scale and vividly colored paintings, Winters continues to find inspiration in nature’s micro- and macrocosms, as well as mathematical concepts like tessellations and knot theory. It is refreshing to find an artist as popular and seasoned as this focusing on consistency rather than radical reinvention. This exhibition might not surprise those familiar with the oeuvre, but reassert why they came to admire it in the first place. Winters stays true to his form and signature style. The compositions, which are heavily patterned and rhythmic, evoke kaleidoscopic renditions.

They can be read as a conglomerate of fragmental views, but also as a cohesive tapestry of organic forms that are played against a grid-like structure. In Winters, we can always trace a chain of events. By employing thin washes of color, he allows us to follow his technique of elaborate layering. These works grow in spades and it is the artist’s strength to be able to visualize a sense of the time it took to complete them. Winters’ Notebook, 2003-2011, which is also on display, provides further insight into the artist’s process. It consists of collages of found images, both abstract and representational. Juxtaposed and layered, these form the dense network of information, from which Winters continues to source inspiration.