Artist of the Week (05/08/06)
|When I did a studio visit with New York artist Jennifer Coates several years ago, I left with the impression that here was a sincere and ambitious young artist who had decided on a particularly difficult course for her career. The works I saw at that time would force her to carve a path through some heavy hitting painting before she'd emerge on the other side with a clearly unique voice. Years later when I saw a new painting in a group exhibition at a Chelsea gallery, I realized I had greatly underestimated her. The work had evolved into the bold confident vision of someone cooking with gas, as they say. And it's only gotten better since.|
Here's a description from the press release for her upcoming exhibition at Feigen (which opens this Thursday):
Jennifer Coates' vividly colored, Symbolist-like paintings utilize the conventions of landscape as an anchor for hallucinatory visions that reference the mind and the body simultaneously. Expanses of sky or sea coalesce into pools of thought-like reflection; clouds of geometry warp into an ecstatic vortex; horizons fissure and swell like skin; and intricate vines tangle into knots of energized ganglia. Coates contrasts an atmospheric radiance with meticulous detail, iconic directness with allusive abstraction. Varied painterly approaches are positioned against each other to create a disjunctive but idealistic experience of place.I've known Jennifer for a number of years, and she's one of my favorite pseudnonymous bloggers (no, she's not Edna, and so many people know her nom de plume, it's hardly worth describing her that way, but I'm not sure whether it's yet totally public knowledge, so...). I mention that she blogs merely to illustrate that she falls into that category of artists who are fully engaged in "the dialog" in a town where that can be somewhat masochistic for young painters.
Jennifer Coates, Creeper, 2006, Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 72" (image originally from now defunct Feigen Contemporary website).
The following is an example of where I feel Jennifer is blazing an exhilarating trail. This piece creates for me a complex mood that's at once both mysterious and hopeful:
Jennifer Coates, Softwall, 2006, Acrylic on canvas, 72" x 60" (image originally from now defunct Feigen Contemporary website).
As noted in the gallery press release, Jennifer is using landscape as a metaphor for the mind and body, placing loaded symbols in ominous settings in ways that touch the darker recesses of one's subconscious. Here's an installation view of a selection of drawings from a 2004 group exhibition at Monya Rowe's gallery that serves a bit as a legend to Jennifer's vocabulary:
Isolated trees or fence posts in barren landscapes stand in for the body. The punch comes from the inclusion of bright, happy colors or senusous shapes teasing out a ray of hope from the otherwise desolate locations. This emotional dichotomy echoes the painterly one, essentially spinning the viewer around in two different directions at once, leaving us wonderously unsettled yet hungry for more. Fortunately, if you're in New York, you can see more in person starting Thursday. Here are two somewhat older pieces for the road:
Jennifer Coates, Grotto, 2005, Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 30" (image originally from now defunct Feigen Contemporary website).
Jennifer Coates, Stump, 2004, Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 72" (image originally from now defunct Feigen Contemporary website).