Painted Cities

Vicki Wulff, Darshan Russell, David Konigsberg, Eileen Murphy, Arthur Hammer, Tona Wilson, Judith Wyer, Jessica Houston, Marlene Wiedenbaum, Bill Clutz, Dan Rupe, Tony Thompson, Paul Chojnowski,

Kate Knapp, Richard Baumann, Staats Fasoldt, Ashley Cooper, Bill Sullivan, Margaret Crenson, Colleen Kiely, Richard Merkin, William Bond Walker, Edward Avedisian, and Joan Griswold

March 4, 2010 through April 11, 2010

Painted Cities at Carrie Haddad Gallery

By Mollie Flannery

Carrie Haddad Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition, Painted Cities, featuring works from twenty one artists in a wide range of media, including watercolors, pastels, oils, graphite rubbings, burned paper, and acrylics. The exhibit will be on view from March 4, 2010 through April 11, 2010. A special reception for collectors to meet some of the artists will take place on Saturday, March 6th fro 6-8pm.
Featured Artists: Vicki Wulff, Darshan Russell, Robert Koffler, David Konigsberg, Eileen Murphy, Arthur Hammer, Tona Wilson, Judith Wyer, Ashley Cooper, Jessica Houston, Marlene Wiedenbaum, Bill Clutz, Dan Rupe, Tony Thompson, Paul Chojnowski, Kate Knapp, Richard Baumann, Staats Fasoldt, Margaret Crenson, Colleen Kiely, Richard Merkin, William Bond Walker, Bill Sullivan and Edward Avedisian.
William Bond Walker, in his mixed media drawing entitled “The City,” depicts an unknown place, a swarm of passing moments and moving bodies. This is his vision of the essence of city life, in which transience is accompanied by a feeling of betrayal: the individual perceives the city as a force hostile to him or herself. In Walker’s work facades of buildings meld into one undulating mass that floats in undifferentiated space. Spontaneous paint marks splatter the surface, attesting to a vigorous and dynamic artistic process (created in 1960, this work shows formal similarities to the art of the Abstract expressionist movement) and evoking the barrage of stimuli that assaults the city dweller. “The City” declares that the only aspect of city life that is constant, that we can pin down, is impermanence.

Walker is one of the few artists in the show who strive to capture not the appearance, but the experience of the city—the way in which the human mind, bombarded by the ubiquity of activity, translates appearance into emotion. Walker’s translation describes a reaction of sorts, fraught with anxiety and hysteria. In light of this work’s emotional charge, it visualizes an imperceptible energy that animates any metropolis. Most of the artists in the show are engaged in a different project: to document a tiny fragment of city life, a unique event. Whether to suggest the accelerated movement of time—the constantly renewing novelty of the city—or to undermine it, these artists hone in on the particular, defying the city’s native anonymity.

Those artists who downplay the ubiquity and persistence of change tend to lend ephemera a sense of permanence; their project, in part, is to immortalize the fleeting moment. Three paintings by Judith Wyer fit this mold. In her representations of pedestrians in transit—crossing the street amidst dense traffic, waiting for the train’s arrival—the atmosphere is thick and the figures solid. The heaviness of bodies and movement resists the immediacy of Wyer’s subject matter, presenting a dichotomy between subject and representation. In “Traffic,” the artist’s sculptural and simplified rendering imparts a formality, a sense of purpose to the woman’s leaden stride. These figures possess gravity and importance; they read like statues. The paintings evoke the experience of an overwhelming spell of mindfulness, in which sensitive and focused perception takes over: the unremarkable event before one’s eyes acquires an unexpected vividness, and its appearance is burned into memory.

Wyer portrays moving bodies as stone, giving the moment a certain weight and stability; Margaret Crenson, on the other hand, preserves its immediacy. In a juicy oil painting entitled “Catskill Creek,” Crenson captures the dynamism of a body of water, suggesting its rapid flow and its shimmering reflection of the light of the sky. Paul Chojnowski achieves a similar effect in three “fire drawings,” in which the artist employs a flame to delimit space. In “Untitled Nocturne,” gross abstractions yield a strikingly realistic image. Soft disks of light deftly establish composition and articulate the work’s chiaroscuro: these luminous forms emerge amidst deep blacks and glowing sepias, describing illuminated skyscraper windows, car headlights, streetlamps. The light pulsates; its movement and dynamism are palpable, as is the sense of impending and constant change.

Many of the artists whose work is featured in Painted Cities employ their artistic mediums in an architectural manner. As much of the conceptual content of the exhibition is made up of architecture, this manner of handling form forges an intimate connection between artistic process and subject matter. Richard Bauman, in “Gloucester Boat Yard,” builds up and sculpts paint, lending this work a palpable tactility. The strength and boldness of the boat in the foreground forces the surrounding landscape into the distance. The boat acquires a structural soundness—real volume and mass that indicate Bauman’s sensitivity to the design and anatomy of a structure. Marlene Wiedenbaum shows a similar concern with form and mass in “Gum, Moscow,” a pastel piece in which a troubled woman—her eyes spilling deep distress—waits in line at the well-known Soviet Russian department store, GUM. This woman bears the only defined face and disposition in an indeterminate sea of shoppers that floods the inside of this massive building. The rational contours of the gaping interior space anchor the composition. Wiedenbaum transcribes the structure’s ornate interior with an almost obsessive attention to detail, imparting a realistic sense of weight and magnitude.

In the paintings of Arthur Hammer, the artist’s emulation of the architectural process is laid bare. Hammer’s affinity for architecture is evident in his repetition of linear marks. Vertical lines redolent of pillars compose the composition of “Waiting for the Train to Come In,” and function as markers of perspective and distance. They evoke the bones of a building, the near-indestructible posts that the façade eventually veils. Here, in Hammer’s painting, these pervasive pillar-like forms serve to uphold the paintings composition, and the two-dimensional surface becomes a metaphor for an architectural space.

Tona Wilson constructs convincing space in “Cells 2,” a monochrome mixed-media piece that offers a grim vision of a future environment in which whole populations dwell in a series of tiny cells, the walls of which are composed of commodities. Wilson adopts an aerial view, which reveals the honey-comb-like structure of this environment, and its harrowing vastness. The other work of Wilson’s in Painted Cities is a graphite rubbing of a manhole cover, plain and unadulterated. These two drawings occupy opposite ends of the exhibition’s spectrum of subject matter and method. “Manhole Cover” literally transfers reality to paper: its marks are imprints from a tiny fragment of city life. “Cells 2,” on the other hand, is pure invention, and the scope of its fantastical subject matter is endless. Most of the work in Painted Cities occupies some space between these poles, supplementing reality with dreams, endowing the city environment with an emotional quality, a certain humanity.

Arthur Hammer

Ashley Norwood Cooper

Colleen Kiely

Dan Rupe

Darshan Russell

David Konigsberg

Edward Avedisian

Eileen Murphy

Jessica Houston

Joan Griswold

Kate Knapp

Margaret Crenson

Marlene Wiedenbaum

Paul Chojnowski

Richard Bauman

Richard Merkin

Staats Fasoldt

Tony Thompson

William Clutz

William Bond Walker