For Summer 2021 we present a selection of 8 small paintings from artist SARAH LUTZ, a painter from New York and Truro, MA who makes large paintings, prints, and small works with oil paint on linen, canvas, and board.
In these works we see moments of Sarah’s rich visual language–her own private creation—employed in order to populate her works with an iconography that is at once personal, familiar, and evocative. In process, she adds and subtracts from this personal lexicon, drawing from imagery rooted in nature but never a direct representation. She explores the inherent dichotomy between geometric and organic forms through these repetitive shapes, shapes that at times become familiar personae in the arc of her work. But there is a biographical element here as well, a way of looking that links to her childhood in Guatemala. She began developing her internal symbolic glossary through osmosis, only aware in her adulthood of the profound impact those colors, shapes, textures, and rituals influenced her. To know this and to see it in paint transforms these works into physical totems, objects charged with vitality, life, and joy.
Lutz works on multiple paintings at one time, fluidly moving from panel to panel to edit, add, subtract, and emphasize. She employs a unique toolbox that she has assembled and tuned for two decades. Lutz uses her brush as an additive tool and her trowel to subtract, stencils, stamps, and squeegees to make textile-like patterns across her surfaces. She then begins a back and forth of laying down color, sanding it away, adding it back, sanding it away, like a visual history that physically documents her process. The pieces are in constant conversation, in flux, tactile representations of the rhythms of the world. Creation and destruction. This process-driven approach allows her to build complex spaces and add three dimensionality to her canvases–a balanced mix of pursuit and retreat. The effect is playful and draws the viewer into a world of gentle movement and color. In this way, her work is reminiscent of stained glass, full of refracting light and rich, saturated color that bounces and morphs at different angles.
Painted during a moment of global and personal change these works are emblematic of the creation process behind Lutz’s vibrant, symbolism-laden work. Each piece is a living document of its own making, evidence of her rigorous, intuitive process and of her ability to leap forward, consider, edit, and to leap again.
~ by Isabelle Turgeon
This Viewing Room presents a selection of eight new, intimate works by JEANNIE MOTHERWELL. These works are smaller than her usual paintings, a direct result of a year in lockdown. During this time, she began pursuing a new format with a more rigorous final editing process, while still embracing the element of surprise in the early stages of her work. In this series, she uses the paintbrush as a control effect, testing what it can do to tinker with her process to shape, change, and push the limits of paint and form. She begins first on the floor by pouring paint with abandon onto her surfaces, spreading it around with an eye for shape and line. In this step, she welcomes the unknown. She pays little attention to what mediums she mixes with her acrylics as it is of little importance to a painter so completely engrossed in her work, squeezing paint straight from the tube onto her canvas. Once the work is dry, she hangs it on the wall and starts editing, never getting too attached to any specific part because it will and has to change. She relishes this editing process as a necessary part of her exploration of her subject. Motherwell looks to the natural world, the depths of the ocean, the deepest recesses of space. She is fascinated with these cosmic and earthly mysteries, exploring these subjects again and again with reverential, probing intensity. She paints with memories of the constant flux of the landscape and the ebb and flow of the surf always fresh in her mind. When she saw the photos from the Hubble telescope, she was fascinated in a similar way again, turning her attention to the vast sea of unknowable space, documented before her with shining bursts of color and light. The natural world is an endless resource to her. Inner and outer space are expansive, raw, and unfiltered, and they all are exalted at the altar of Motherwell. Standing before these pieces, you are confronted with a portal to experience the existential, the natural, and the beautiful. It is a rare intention, nowadays, to seek out beauty as the final product. But when Motherwell guides us there, we can feel it in our bones as a primal reaction. Her work embraces intimacy, mystery, and the all consuming nature of the sublime. As viewers, we have been yearning for this complete relinquishment of control. To view her work is to get swept away in the sea, and to enjoy it.
~ by Isabelle Turgeon
AMY ARBUS: ON THE STREET
At the heart of AMY ARBUS’s work is a contagious joie de vivre borne amongst the concrete landscape of the famed streets of NYC in the 80s. If viewers are nostalgic for this elusive city of imagination and style, Amy Arbus’ images embody the beating heart that fuels it. This Viewing Room presents a selection of Amy Arbus’s work from “On the Street”, a series of unique, cultural moments from the “golden age” of street style in her hometown, New York City.
Arbus captured these quintessential New York moments and people for ten years for the Village Voice, where monthly she documented the life, fashion, and vitality thriving just outside her window. These photographs link Amy Arbus to the ethos of the time, one of freedom of self expression in which her subjects are unquestionably cool ambassadors of this vibrant world at the cross-section of art, fashion, style, and culture. These works are emblematic of the time, an ode to the gritty romance of that city. The exceptional nature of New York City and its inhabitants does not escape Amy Arbus. From the subtle gender-bending beauty of the subject of “Hat and Men’s Tie, to the Clash, straight from the set of Scorsese’s King of Comedy, to Madonna on the brink of complete stardom, Amy Arbus captures them all and then some with the nuanced eye of a cultural “fly on the wall”. She honors these fleeting moments of style and guts with incredible heart, transforming stranger into intimate acquaintance with her keen eye and discerning lens.
Amy Arbus is not singularly a fashion photographer. She is a journalist, a historian, a master of composition and setting. The more than 500 photographs from On the Street, highly crafted in composition, reveal a true artist and observer at work capturing the pulse of her city and its worshippers with her own distinct, artistic style. Her works appear in the esteemed collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), the Morgan Library (NY), the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the Richard Avedon Foundation (NY), the Newbury Hotel (Boston), and the National Theater in Oslo, Norway.
~ by Isabelle Turgeon
Kahn & Selesnick/ Panoramas
Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick are a collaborative artist team who have been working together since meeting at Washington University in St. Louis in the early 1980s. Initially, this involved assisting each other in their own separate but similar projects before they officially teamed up under the Kahn & Selesnick moniker in 1988. Like many other collaborative artist teams and collectives, their practice revolves around world-building and narrative, and spans forays into many different media. After starting off working primarily in photography and printmaking while at art school, they expanded into painting, sculpture, and text after moving to Cape Cod in 1988 to start their collaboration in earnest. These early works included installation elements such as portraits painted on plaster panels; heads made of bread, honey, and wax; ritual raviolis made of terra cotta; and a beehive that played absurdist agricultural folk songs from a blackened antler. This phase of their career culminated in the building of a wooden chapel to contain these absurdist/devotional objects entitled “The Rood-loft of the Drunken Beekeeper”.
During this portion of their career, the landscape of Cape Cod would feature heavily in their work, the artists making frequent forays into the marshes and dunes to photograph costumed characters in situ as source material for their painted portraits. Recognizing that this element of interacting the landscape directly was in fact the most vital part of their practice, Kahn & Selesnick decided to prioritize photography in their work, allowing the viewer the vicarious pleasure of accompanying the two artists on their quixotic adventures both on Cape Cod and in other locations as diverse as the deserts of the western United States and the upland bogs of Scotland’s Isle of Skye. Even before embarking on their photographic career, the artists had been attracted to the panoramic format as a means of immersing the viewer in the drawn or painted landscape, making the transition to panoramic photographs a natural one. Early attempts made heavy use of the color Xerox machine as a tool for producing sepia images that could be collaged together from many different snapshots taken in the field, then folded and aged to produce seemingly real false histories documenting the artist’s interest in shamanism, trance, and alternative realities. These were presented to the viewer as factual evidence and were frequently mixed with actual archival materials and objects. As events in the real world became ever more outlandish and alarming, Kahn & Selesnick’s projects grew more and more absurd, including Scotlandfuturebog, images of Scottish bog dwellers after an imagined but vague apocalyptic event; the Apollo Prophecies, about a lost Edwardian expedition to the moon; and Eisbergfreistadt, a series about an iceberg running aground in the German city of Lübeck during the height of the hyperinflation of the 1920s. As credulity stretched to braking point, the artists eventually abandoned their museological methodology to focus on creating full-on dadaist actions in nature to express their concern with climate change and environmental degradation. To this end they created an absurdist theater troupe called the Truppe Fledermaus, and an ongoing series of performances entitled “The Carnival at the End of the World”.
These panoramas explore the artist’s use of the Outer Cape as a backdrop for this diverse set of projects, and how this singular landscape has both informed and transformed themes and currents that run through the artist’s work. In certain respects, Kahn & Selesnick may be viewed essentially as filmmakers whose final output includes all the elements of filmmaking other than the actual film itself. In this regard, the Outer Cape, which can almost be seen as a location that is both no place and every place, has functioned as a kind of studio backlot for the artist’s fictive adventures, doubling for settings as diverse as the Martian plains to the stunted boreal forests of Siberia. However, during the artist’s interactions with this landscape, it moved from being a landscape-everyman to having a starring role, as the artists became obsessed with the changes they saw occurring on their various expeditions into the dunes and marshes. The Outer Cape is a laboratory for both the rewilded post-industrial landscape, and for the ravages caused by climate change induced storms and flooding, themes that have gradually become paramount in the artist’s work. An immersive installation, including panoramic photographs, wall installations, maps, text, costumes and props, documents the artist’s evolving reaction to extraordinary place that is the Outer Cape, transforming its terrain into a theatre of memory that is at once deeply personal and reflective of the powerful forces that are changing and consuming this unique landscape.