In 1998, the Museum of Modern Art opened an ambitious and expansive exhibition of the work of Pierre Bonnard. Among those winding through the galleries of the show was Trevor Shimizu, who left the museum ultimately disillusioned by the possibilities of painting in the modern age, and convinced that he should abandon the format. The artist would turn, as a result, to video and performance art as a result, exploring approaches driven in part by his disappointment in the possibility of painting.
Nevertheless, the Bonnard show, and the artist’s personal philosophies stuck with Shimizu, and as the years wound on, he would delve back into the canvas as a possibility for exploration and elaboration not only of its space, but equally of its history. Shimizu’s gradual return to painting and his renewed interest in Bonnard sits at the core of his current exhibition at 47 Canal, where the artist has installed a series of large scale paintings derived from Bonnard’s approach to his work, and painted with Shimizu’s own deconstructive flair and conceptual arc.
A sense of proximity, indebted to Bonnard’s experiments in immediacy, drives the show, titled Landscapes, the artist’s fourth solo exhibition at 47 Canal. Each painting is completed from memory, giving emphasis to gesture and reflection, and relying less on the space of the real as an operative agent in his compositions. References to color field painting dance in and out of the surface of each piece, and imbue his “landscapes” with a sense of playfulness and energy. These images are explorations of energy and potency, an attempt to capture the grandeur and power of nature with, quite literally, bold strokes. In many of the works on display, there is a tension between the vibrancy of the subject and the detachment, characteristic of much of Shimizu’s output, with which it is rendered. Shimizu has said that his new works constitute a “dumbing down” of his text-and-narrative-based projects, generating an extended vocabulary of form, composition and color, and evolving the artist’s practice into renewed terrains of contemplation. Yet equally these pieces are an exploration of scale and space, of color itself as an expression of both memory and affect, arriving at compositions that impress upon the viewer not so much the scale and power of nature, as was often Bonnard’s aim, but more that same sense of awe, found in the looking itself.
The show closes March 22nd.
— D. Creahan
Trevor Shimizu: Landscapes [Exhibition]