On view this month at David Kordansky Gallery New York and artist Lucy Bull present Piper, her first solo exhibition in New York, featuring new paintings that underscore her use of resonant color, intensively worked vocabularies, and disorienting spatial experimentation. While Bull’s vision of abstraction takes shape on the canvas with abundant force, her approach is also notable for its insistent openness, which favors the creation of associative and narrative possibilities rather than the execution of pre-determined ideas regarding composition or any of the other constituent parts of painting.
Among the new works on view are large-scale vertical paintings whose complex relationship to human scale generates unexpected effects. Since the upper portions of these canvases elude close-up viewing, they resist the kinds of microscopic examination that allow viewers to visually dissect their central or lower sections. The instinct to analyze, meets resistance too, as looking becomes precipitated on acts of surrender and pure imagination analogous to those Bull induces in herself while painting. In varied ways, the paintings are negotiations with the physical dimensions and sensorial capacities of the human figure; with the desire to see and to find meaning in chaotic conditions; and with the instinct to do justice to a full range of feelings, self-conceptions, and modes of expression.
If several of the paintings on view are driven by amplifications of Bull’s already maximalist tendencies, others move in the opposite direction and find her establishing what might be considered more traditional conversations between foreground and background. Even in these examples, however, Bull finds ways to disrupt the process of decoding the chronology of her marks. As a result, it becomes impossible to chart a single path through the story of their making. A powerful sense of simultaneity emerges: these are all-at-once rather than all-over paintings, and repeated viewings reveal seemingly new forms that appear to be creating themselves from the void as if for the first time.
Throughout her work, Bull translates such multiplicity into visceral experiences where meaning arises through emotional surrender, imaginative speculation, and intellectual engagement alike. Accordingly, her paint handling and characteristic uses of color—including the placement of luminous tones in the underlayers of several works, where they lend a spectral glow—are indicative of perceptions that occur in the body and eye as well as in places more metaphysical. Like the diaphanous realm of dreams, for instance—which is discernible for many people on a nightly basis but becomes difficult to pinpoint when waking life regains its hold on consciousness—the fleeting phenomena that Bull’s paintings depict test the viewer’s capacity to distinguish the self and the other. While awareness of such states can engender disconcerting sensations of boundlessness and loss of control, Bull recognizes that they are also responsible for wonder, passion, and aesthetic inspiration. She roots her investigations of these liminal categories by staying true to the conditions of painting itself, and by allowing pigment, medium, brush, and support to tell stories that language cannot contain.
– C. Reinhardt
Lucy Bull at David Kordansky [Exhibition Site]