Bernhardt, Frost, Kitaj, Rivers, Schumann, Williams
Feb 23 — Mar 24
Marlborough Chelsea is pleased to announce a multi-generational exhibition of paintings drawn from the gallery’s large and varied historical holdings together with recent work by younger artists from New York and London. The exhibition includes paintings by Katherine Bernhardt, Alistair Frost, R.B. Kitaj, Larry Rivers, Max Schumann and Michael Williams, and explores the enduring convergence of pop-culture imagery, art historical conventions, and pure painterly concerns. The exhibition will open the evening of ursday, February 23 from 6 – 8PM at Marlborough Chelsea, located at 545 West 25th Street.
Anchored by a pair of late-period R.B. Kitaj paintings and three 1960s Larry Rivers works, the tone is set for consistent slippage between active surface and illusionary space, representation and freeform facture. Kitaj’s singular use of color, and varied mark-making, depict intensely personal scenes, and stand in contrast to Rivers’ subjects drawn from the convergence of commonly available products, advertising and art history, but nicely bookend the tendencies of the more recent works.
The use of text, numbers and symbols recurrent in the paintings gathered here often calls attention to the picture plane and its use as a site for the direct communication of language. Simultaneously however, overall pigment application in streaks, whorls, blots, obliterations and pentimenti privileges the loose and improvisational codes of the painterly. The resonance of these works resides in the tension and dynamism created between these polarities.
Max Schumann’s ongoing, focused critique of Capitalism and depictions of power and control in the popular media are disguised in a sneakily workmanlike painting style, and utilize evocative, and often incongruous, text and image juxtapositions. The acrylic paintings on inexpensive found materials are created as laboriously handmade multiples, underlining subtle di erences in tone and texture while creating a barrage of repeated imagery.
Michael Williams’ playful but highly considered compositions over a destabilizing challenge to our notions of beauty and the efficacy of traditional painting conventions. Forms are rendered raw with airbrush, and then often scrimmed with uniform layers of semi-transparent pigment. They reveal an artist grappling with the public display of his automatic urges. Like Kitaj’s injection of psychology into fairly conventional genre scenes, William’s contribution to the show, Untitled (2012), is an electrifying twist on the tradition of the odalisque – at once an homage and a send-up.
Katherine Bernhardt’s paintings, based on Moroccan rug patterns, generate new abstractions from the process of translation from the source-material to the gesture to the canvas. Wonderfully loose and active, these works, which the artist refers to as “representational abstractions” vibrate with the artist’s enthusiasm for her subject, and the act of painting itself. Bernhardt’s paintings share a sympathetic relationship to Rivers’ loose rendition of a playing card, Ten of Clubs (1960), in their reproduction of an existing at, rectangular and commonly-traded object, while transcending mere depiction.
Englishman Alistair Frost echoes the palette of his forebear Kitaj (who, although American, worked in England for the bulk of his career), and the language of advertising common in Rivers’ work, but from a decidedly slippery 21st-century, eyebrow-arching remove. Connotations of representation and abstraction (an austere Modernist grid turns out to be a depiction of folded drug wrappers) are common in the work, coexisting with more gestural paint handling – although even these marks often feel like quotations rather than expressive applications of color.