This summer, Hollis Taggart Galleries presents new work from a select group of artists, each of whom brings a contemporary spirit to the painted surface. Strong foundations in Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting unite these four artists. But despite shared underpinnings, each has built an entirely unique and contemporary artistic practice.
Rooted firmly in the New York School, Robert Baribeau employs the expressive gestures and heavy impastoes of Abstract Expressionism in his canvases, sculptures, and works on paper. Baribeau infuses his surfaces with found ephemera such as wrapping paper and fabric, building upon already dense and highly tactile layers of paint. These collages reflect the voracious aesthetic appetite that is characteristic of his work that seems to vacuum up materials into its surfaces in a manner akin to the combine paintings of Robert Rauschenberg. The result, as Grace Glueck deemed them in a review for the New York Times, is a “joyous riot” of colors and textures (1).
Virtuoso painter Alex Kanevsky captures movement and time’s constant flow in canvases that resist adherence to a single moment, or even a single reading. Like the unreliable nature of memory and the imprecise atmosphere of poetry, Kanevsky’s multilayered works provide more questions than answers. These paintings combine abstraction and figuration in layered, painterly compositions in which the artist strives to convey his own personal and particular view of the world with “extreme clarity.” (2) This process produces compositions that shimmer with a kind of Futurist velocity, while at the same time capturing a serene feeling of stillness.
The figure is central to Kanevsky’s work. His figures inhabit mysterious landscapes and ambiguous architecture, often composed of wide swaths of color that contain echoes of color field painting. Most often, Kanevsky focuses on the nude, creating soft, tactile bodies in luscious flesh tones. He has “absorbed the syntax of modernist—or is it postmodernist?—painting,” adapting and molding art history to his own devices. (3) His landscapes pulsate with alchemical energy, shifting between the recognizable world and pure form and color.
As a painter, Chloë Lamb is a sensualist in the most compelling way. Viewing one of Lamb’s paintings, large or small, it is made plain something that she has articulated all along: her passion for all of oil paint’s attributes. She is inspired by its pigment, the ability to thin it out into a glaze or build its density up to incredible dimension, and especially its long drying time, which allows her to paint wet into wet – a technique not easily mastered. She works instinctually with her materials. Unable to (and disinterested in) envisioning the final outcome of a painting, Lamb works on each until she sees it to completion, in a way conjuring from those very attributes which she admires so much.
Alexis Portilla’s layered compositions create an expressive sense of depth that is both wholly contemporary and suggestive of the New York School. His meticulous consideration of surface results in vibrating, active planes of color that interact in interesting and unexpected ways. In a process that is equal parts planning and experimentation, he creates colors that are not mixed, but layered, often many times over. Visible passages of these multiple under layers give his work an atmospheric feeling of space. Portilla’s predominately grey palette, with undertones of blue and slate juxtaposed against bright passages of red and yellow, reflects the urban landscape in which he lives and works: “I’ve been living in New York for a long time and it’s natural for an artist to absorb images from the place they see daily.” (4)
1. Grace Glueck, “Art In Review: Robert Baribeau,” The New York Times, July 2, 2004.
2. “Alex Kanevsky is ‘On Our Radar’” (Interview), Huffington Post. 26 March 2013.
3. Peter Selz, “Alex Kanevsky,” Alex Kanevsky. (San Francisco: Dolby Chadwick Gallery, 2015), 1.
4. Alexis Portilla, quoted in Pat Rogers, “Alexis Portilla’s Layered Color and Circular Forms Create ‘Surface Tension,’” Hamptons Art Hub. 20 December 2014.