09 Aug Keeping Pace
While the city’s museums remain closed there is a perfect alternative for spending time with the work of artists. Galleries in Chelsea have opened for public viewing and it feels great to have this option available again. Appointments may be made online and all visits are free of charge.
I recently visited the new Pace Gallery on West 25th which unveiled its new space last fall and it’s an impressive renovation and expansion, featuring 6 levels for art shows, a terrace and café (currently closed) lecture hall and offices.
Drenched in natural light, the exhibition floors are ample in square footage and ceiling heights which give a sense of endless space and allow for the display of works both massive in scale as well as the diminutive.
The day of my visit was quiet and allowed for a deeper study and reflection of the three artists currently being presented—Julian Schnabel, Arlene Shechet and Kenneth Noland—each of which employed varying and interesting mediums and techniques.
Julian Schnabel, known for employing non-traditional materials for use in painting and art making, presented a collection of thirteen new pieces produced in Montauk whose primary structures were composed of fabric that covered a fruit market in Mexico.
Thus the shapes of the canvases are dictated by the individual pieces of fabric, creating paintings that appear to be stretched out from the traditional square or rectangle shape to their utmost limits, the effect of which is intensified by applying paint in such a way to give the illusion of additional stretch, as if the canvas is being pulled by some unseen force in another direction.
In addition, the fabric shows fascinating age spots, strange indentations, rips sewn up and degrees of discoloration. As James Nares states in his essay accompanying the exhibition, “These paintings represent the evidence of their own autonomy.”
The works show Mr. Schnabel’s continuing fascination with the use of discarded objects, endowing them with thought-provoking, complex meaning and, in the process, elevating both the original ephemera and his handling of the material.
Arlene Shechet, a prodigious sculptor working both in New York City and the Hudson Valley, presented a daring, and what she would term “seductive,” group of mixed media sculptures that truly demand close inspection and exploration.
An enthusiast of both the beautiful and grotesque in shape and form, Ms. Shechet’s work has a lyrical quality that is also atonal in its refusal to flow in a way the eye may prefer. As you scan a piece the viewing is disrupted by a sharp turn or an unexpected protrusion that invites a trip around the piece—“where is this going?” I wondered at many of the pieces.
In their demand that you spend time with them I found that, in doing so, they did begin to reveal themselves in new ways and also provoked synonymous images in my mind—meaning they started to make sense.
The pieces also allow for that usual rule of “no touching” to be disregarded—they almost dare you to touch them (I was tempted on several pieces, especially one that looked like two solid lead structures or stone columns reminiscent of Stonehenge but could be fabric or canvas stretched and secured over boxy frameworks). I learned later that sneaking a touch was ok!
Whether biomorphic, rigid and hard or softly sensual, Arlene Shechet has mastered her particular vision of the world and crafts it in ways both disciplined and memorable.
Kenneth Noland, best known as one of the pioneers and innovators of color field painting in the 1950’s as well as a member of the Washington Color School, has a collection of works from his “Flare” series that have rarely been exhibited as a group since first produced in the years between 1990-1995.
They are, in a single word, delightful. Bright, candy-color hues immediately brought to mind the southern California landscape and lifestyle (whether intended or not). Each piece evokes an internal happiness with their sunny dispositions and fluid shapes, as I imagined a languid summer day ending with a perfect sunset.
His use of colored Plexiglas strips between joined canvases carved in different shapes and sizes intensify the feeling of lightness and provide an interesting counterpoint to the actual paint on the canvas whether blending in or contrasting. The strips appear to dance with the canvases, weaving between them in wiggling vibration.
The pieces are refreshing and look magnificent in the rooms on the upper floor where they hang in full natural light and the colors appear even more saturated.
As an artist with total comprehension and appreciation of color, Mr. Noland produced an outstanding group of pieces that retain their strength, impact and unabashed good mood thirty years later.
My day at Pace Gallery was a pleasure and a great learning experience. All three exhibitions have a lot to offer and the space itself is a treat to visit. They are ready to welcome you–make your reservation here.