Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Figures in Space: Katherine Bradford at CANADA and Mernet Larsen at COHAN

Katherine Bradford at CANADA
Bradford/CANADA Link
In Hyperallergic, John Yau writes, "In her most recent work, Bradford has upped the stakes of her earlier work. For one thing, she has complicated her compositions by adding many more figures as well as dividing the ground in two or more distinct areas, water and sky, for example. The complications are the result of her pushing both the formal and imaginative further into a fictive domain without letting one get ahead of the other."

There is a luminescent backlighting in these paintings caused by vellaturas on top of vivid color, transparent and opaque balances and plain painterly magic.  On the top right of the painting, the whites of the waves are 'haloed' against the deep, velvety dark ground.

The treatment of form as another mark in space unites the figures and their spaces, reminding us that in fact the human body is some 70% water.

Interestingly Bradford is using acrylic, which reinforces her images of water, though the multiple layers and swipes of thick paint summon her oil painting background.

I have to go back to see this painting. It is a complete experience, clearly showing its history being turned all different ways, and the big, soft, fluffy Twinkie-like waves delight the eye to no end. At the same time the narrative is a bit foreboding, despite the candy color. 

Mernet Larsen at James Cohan. These are drawings in the back room.(I was too busy talking to people in the front room filled with her paintings).  She describes her work in the Paris Review as, “old-fashioned narrative paintings ... statements of longing.” “What I use are these perspectival ploys—diverse perspective, parallel perspective,” she told The Huffington Post last year. “You’re always sort of moving around inside the painting; you can never quite figure out where you’re standing, so you kind of absorb it. Matisse does that too for me too. And a lot of Japanese art, from the twelfth century particularly. They bring you inside and outside the space, you have no particular position. You can't quite get your bearings. And yet, I want you to have a sense of orient, a sense of mass, a sense of depth.”

Larsen/COHAN exhibition Link.
My favorite Larsen composition except for "Aw," an earlier work. This is a reverse-perspective faculty meeting sketch. I love these paintings, love her scholarship of Asian perspective, her grasp on figuration, her slow and careful way of building up form and space.

Larsen and I met at University of South Florida in 2003, her last year of teaching / my first.  Around that time she photographed faculty meetings, from which these paint sketches are inspired. I was shocked and thrilled that such a jewel resided in that setting, and her work continues to amaze me.

Here is the weirdest painting in the show, with "self-conscious painting" in keeping with Larsen's emphasis on constructed realities. What excites me most exciting is the elongated figures and how their bow and arrows carve through space. The blue disk flips between resembling a planet and a Turell-like skylight.

The space holds mind-popping characteristics of Fred Sandback or Robert Irwin installations in a totally hands-on way. 

A favorite detail from a family reunion. Arms really do that. I did not photograph the painting, but urge you to go see for yourself.

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