Making an intriguing continuation of his investigation of natural processes and large-scale environmental phenomena, artist Harold Ancart has a new show on at David Zwirner this month. Delving into leafy canopies and expansive, haunting desert expanses, the show gives the impression of an extended meditation on place and space, and makes for a strong follow up to the artist’s first show with the gallery in New York.
On view in one gallery space are a new series of paintings that depicts trees, painted between Ancart’s Brooklyn studio and a makeshift outdoor studio in Los Angeles, which he traveled to during lockdown. The works are rendered in a strikingly expressive hand, one that hints at new stylistic notes and ideas on Ancart’s execution. Pointing to references as varied as René Magritte, Gustav Klimt, and Piet Mondrian, who approached this subject matter in distinct ways, Ancart’s tree paintings blur form and color, figure and ground, and figuration and abstraction. His signature acts of deconstruction and blurring can be seen throughout, giving the works heavy doses of color and swirling, lush affects, all underscoring an attentive, yet visceral response to the scenes he depicts.
In the adjoining gallery space, there will be two multipanel canvases that situate the viewer between a mountain-scape and a seascape, both monumental in scale. These works are inspired in part by the artist’s encounter with the modernist landscape murals of the American painter Gottardo Piazzoni (1872–1945) permanently installed at the De Young Museum, San Francisco. Here, he turns these open spaces into a structural counterpoint to the works in the other gallery, allowing the same style of brusque depiction to lend these wide open spaces a sense of movement and power.
There’s certainly a specific reference set that artists seem to be embracing in the months immediately following the COVID-19 lockdown. Much akin to the Amy Sillman show just a few minutes away, Ancart spent lockdown occupied with simple image systems; trees, dusty plains, and momentary pauses, all fitting subjects for his style of work. The exhibition constructs an immersive landscape experience, and together, the works on view comprise a meditation on the expansive possibilities of painting, particularly at a time when painting is all that’s left to do.
The show closes October 17th.
– D. Creahan
Harold Ancart: “Traveling Light” at David Zwirner [Exhibition Site]