John Hurrell – 15 September, 2020
'Slippery Painting' is a nice, even sunny, look at some West Coast American painting (although two ‘painting' videos and one static digital image are included). It's a stark contrast to our grim daily news items on intensely racially-divided, Covid contaminated, Trumpian USA. Despite expectations, a cheerful celebratory mood—induced by the hot colour and often exuberant decorative marks-pervades. Albeit a Californian cliché.
Whitney Bedford, Petra Cortright, Kirsten Everberg, Judy Ledgerwood
1 September - 3 October 2020
This collection of works by four women artists from L.A., organised by Brian Butler (ex Artspace director and Californian dealer), is a nice, even sunny, look at some West Coast American painting (although two ‘painting’ videos and one static digital image are included). It’s a stark contrast to our grim daily news items on intensely racially-divided, Covid contaminated, fire-ravaged Trumpian USA. Despite expectations, a cheerful celebratory mood—induced by the hot colour and often exuberant decorative marks-pervades. Albeit a Californian cliché.
Three of the four artists come from 1301PE, Butler’s gallery, and the other comes from Vielmetter Los Angeles. The nine contributions are domestic in size, obviously due to air freight, and work well in combination.
Petra Cortright‘s videos rely on specifically ratioed monitors (one freestanding) to emphasise their proportions accurately. Cortright is a digital artist who emulates painting rather actually use a studio with canvases, easels and sticky substances. Her static wall work, in this country, could be mistaken (from a distance) for that of expressionist Alan Pearson.
Of the videos, the smaller (freestanding) image is cumulative in its sequencing, changing rapidly by the second, and quite floral in its mood. The large rectangular work, is horizontally aligned and like a small Pollock, but very brusherly and in parts gorgeously translucent-like gel. The changes over time are very very slow. You have to plonk yourself in front of it and patiently (with alertness) wait for ‘the penny to drop’ over gradual compositional shifts.
Kirsten Everberg‘s paintings feature glossy enamel application over flat oil underpainting. Her sensual but intricate landscape shows a snowy forest with faint tree shadows that vertically accentuate the flat picture plane—making a graphic image even more so. The nearby image of a velvet-topped table presenting a boiled egg on some playing cards, and a friendly lizard, is less modernist and more illusionist. Its colour is a lot poppier. Obviously this artist handles different historic genres with ease.
Through Starkwhite, Whitney Bedford is already well known to Auckland audiences. Her two paintings play with spatial ambiguity by showing landscapes that could be projected on two planes inside a box, or perhaps two murals adjacent on walls in a room. Or we could be looking through two large plate glass windows out into European vistas.
One work references Gainsborough, the other Turner. Some Californian botanical references are included indoors to add to the humour.
Bedford’s work exudes an elegance and ease of execution; characteristically graphic and with gestural sweeps, unlike say Everberg who uses blocks of colour. She has more affinities with Cortright.
Judy Ledgerwood‘s two long decorative paintings are quite different from each other. One uses patterns of quickly applied floral and diamond motifs, and contrasting backdrops of colour. The other uses gold paint for floral patterns that swell in the centre and diminish at the sides, suggesting that the complex rendered form (or the horizontal stretcher) is bending.
Ledgerwood’s work is like a synthesis of Kim MacConnel and Allen Maddox. Her grids are sagging with the pull of gravity: nice and loose. As with Bedford, there is a very relaxed manuality that fits in nicely with their common experiments with illusionist space.
This excellent exhibition doesn’t attempt to radically push out the parameters of painting (well, maybe Cortright?) but it does reveal for Aucklanders a group of very talented Californian practitioners that are refreshing in the current global context. Well worth seeing.