Marking the first show of the fall season at Marianne Boesky’s Chelsea exhibition space, artist Anthony Pearson returns to his long-running experimentations with hydrocal for a new selection of works. The artist’s work as a lingering, enigmatic engagement with this material functions as an explicit practice in deep intellectual and physical engagement with a few materials, exploring the behaviors, reactions, and open possibilities of his intentionally limited material vocabulary.
Pearson’s work is notable for its continued experimentation with hydrocal—a gypsum cement that he infuses with pigments, a mode of working that he has continually revisited since 2011. For this most recent series, he stretches a segment of fabric within a mold and then pours the liquid cement, which he has variously colored, atop the fabric, layering, shifting, and allowing it to coalesce organically within the confines of the supports. Once the material sets, Pearson removes the hardened cement from the frame and pulls the canvas from its face, leaving intricate patterned impressions and traces of fiber filament on the surface plane. In this way the skin and body of the work are created concurrently, as the fields of color weave together into abstract landscapes, where suggestions of sunsets and desert views dissipate as quickly as they emerge. Made in reverse, with the front of the work facing downward in the frame, the process embodies Pearson’s deep knowledge of the material, integrating his original vision for each work with the naturally arising effects.
This series—which also represents the first substantial introduction of color into Pearson’s practice since 2010—expands on the visual vocabularies that Pearson established in his earlier series. The pieces are notable in their subdued, explicit sense of quiet reflection, the smooth surfaces offering an initially cool reading of the work that gives way to their subtle details. In some pieces, the pooling nature of the material allows an understanding the work’s construction in bold strokes, while elsewhere marks on the surface of each layer reflect a continued return to each element over time, the artist repeatedly embellishing and reworking the structure to create the final form. With each material manipulation, the surface becomes a space to reimagine, alter, and meld the boundaries between and formal occupations of different artistic genres. Questions of perception, light, and physicality merge, resulting in objects that elude easy categorization.
Pearson’s work clearly relies in part on its labor-intensive nature to present the meditative, gradual process of construction, as if the act of intimacy with his materials is ultimately the point and process of his work in turn. The result are pieces that seem to unfold as experiential narratives, allowing the viewer to move in and out of the encounters with his compositions both from the perspective of their clear layers of construction, or in the lines of flight that each layer seems to take in its own right. Presenting space and time as existing in multiple states at once, Pearsons’s pieces are a remarkable re-creation of the act of losing oneself in ones’ work.
The show closes October 20th.
— D. Creahan
Anthony Pearson at Marianne Boesky [Exhibition Site]