Colorful, bold flourishes and deliberate brush strokes greet the viewer upon entry to Gladstone Gallery’s Chelsea exhibition space, a dynamic and enervating tableau orchestrated by painter Amy Sillman. Taking over the gallery for a show that now opens after its earlier postponement in the wake of covid-19, the show introduces a flourish of energy that underscores Sillman’s ongoing work, and offers a moment of reflection and repose for viewers in the midst of the current turbulence of the world outside the gallery.
The show, titled Twice Removed, takes its name from ideas of multiple subjectivities, of forked awareness and split concepts in the appreciation and feeling of an image, a work, a sentence or a chance encounter. Sillman, emphasizing techniques of erasure in negotiation with those of form, dwells on the dual engagement of the painter with the work, depicting and deconstructing, abstracting and reifying form through the ongoing exchange with a created image and perceived scene. Rather than move too far beyond the world of figuration, Sillman instead seems to move closer inside its history. The work is presented as a series of variations and explorations, abstract painting in conversation with still-lifes and form studies, each time allowing her shared concepts between both modes to populate the full body of work with an energy that always seems to echo the other, presented just a few canvases away.
Amy Sillman, 20202 (2020), via Gladstone Gallery
Marking a series of formal evolutions and complications since its initial arrangements, Sillman’s work here tucks a range of modes and iconographies into the exhibition, embracing the disjunctures of time and the experience of the past year to interfere and enter into the world of her work, twisting the initial concepts into more fluid interchanges of theme and form. The flowers presented here are the result of months painting without a studio, a note that lends them an additional understanding as both an exercise in pragmatism and a sort of meditative or therapeutic act of repetition. As the artist continued to work in this mode, the images grew increasingly abstract, implying an improvisation on the form that settles in as if the imaginary and the subjective slowly begin to take hold of the work, and to transmute their particular affects on to the movements of Sillman’s wrist and into her color choices. As the year passes, one notes increasing abstractions, moving into backgrounds and patterns, and eventually away from her initial subjects almost completely.
This sense of a painterly life, created anew, is a particularly resonant one for a year as marked by turbulence and confusion as this one. Underscoring the experience of a world changing itself in real-time, Sillman’s work is a fascinating exploration of a year like no other, painted in real-time.
The show closes November 14th.
– D. Creahan
Amy Sillman: Twice Removed [Exhibition Site]