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New American Paintings

Walled Garden at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery

By Whitney Kimball

October 18, 2012


Walled Garden (On view through October 21st) inconspicuously groups landscape painting from several generations. You’ll find names as disparate from emerging net artist Travess Smalley to entrenched New York figure Lois Dodd (in the 50s, she co-founded the Tanager Gallery, where both Philip Pearlstein and Alex Katz got their start). All of the work loosely congregates around geometric blocks of color and a level of mid-process; the defining difference seems to be that younger artists are more fluid with materials. In that way, “Walled Garden” opens up. Tom Fairs’s pencilled gardens start us at Homer; Travess Smalley’s metallic print looks toward psychadellia; Dike Blair’s painting-accented wooden crates break the picture plane; Arlene Shechet’s ceramic log appears to be mid-melt.

While SOP free-association can diminish the original to “vintage,” that doesn’t happen here. In this group, unconventional materials don’t surprise as much as they revive the more traditional work and bring the newer stuff down to earth. Lois Dodd’s angular blocks of pink and scrawled greens in Echinacea, Hollyhocks & Dahlias, for instance, get at the same fresh gesture as Barry Stone’s cardboard rips in Say It and Mean It, a close-up photo of a landscape, printed on torn toy packaging. Tempering bold, sketchy gestures under the guise of the everyday, you realize, this Stone is a bit of a Dodd. While at first, you’d think it funny to include a Dodd or a Fairs because they’re firmly rooted in traditional practices, but the end result gives it the ubiquity of an image search. Everything gets some air.