Tag Archives: abstract

Beauty in Banality: The Art of Jennifer Small

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All Images Courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

Since the Chelsea galleries reopened a few months ago, there has not been much on exhibit that has compelled me to leave my house in order to see the art in person. I felt differently, however, when I received an email announcing an exhibit of new paintings from Wilmington, DE-based painter Jennifer Small. As soon as I saw her bold and colorful canvases featuring abstract shapes and patterns, they reminded me of the shaped, sculptural paintings by Beverly Fishman as well as the furniture designs of Shiro Kuramata. It delighted me to imagine what a line of art furniture from the mind of this artist might look like. I wanted to see these paintings in person right away. Sadly, I was informed that the show was viewable online only, but gallerist Robert Berry was kind enough ask Jennifer for a statement about her work exclusively for this post. Sweet.

jennifer small work detail
Detail of Work from Above Photo

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Beauty in Banality is about seeing everyday routine as an opportunity to absorb visual curiosities in situations or places that are often overlooked,” Jennifer explains. “I use abstraction to elevate these glimpses of ordinary environments into bold, engaging compositions that can live in a white cube gallery space but are still approachable and relatable because they are grounded in observations of common things.” It’s nice to know that I am not alone in having taken inspiration from my post-lockdown neighborhood walks.

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“The majority of the paintings in Beauty in Banality were made since the Covid-19 lockdown this past year,” she continues. “I was inspired by walking my dog around the block, witnessing caution tape around playgrounds and abandoned soccer fields. My paintings become a visual diary of my movements in a specific time and place.”

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Suggestive of the works of Thomas Nozkowski, Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Series, and Wendy White, Small’s work often features a major focal point, as well as secondary items, creating visual interest with neutral areas juxtaposed with detailed patterning. Find out more about Jennifer Small, and see all of the fourteen works featured in the Beauty of Banality series, through January 10th 2021, by visiting  the Robert Berry Gallery.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Edna Andrade, Summer Game

edna andrade summer game photo by gail worley
Photo By Gail 

An early practitioner of Op Art, a movement that emerged in the mid-1960s and prioritized optical illusionism, Edna Andrade (19172008) used geometry and color to create abstract interpretations of organic ratios, biological systems, and natural rhythms. Summer Game (1972) features a vibrant palette and an irregular grid that appears to expand and contract, project, and recede, creating a sense of playful, kinetic energy.

Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Ad Reinhardt, Number 22

Ad Reinhardt Number 22
Photos By Gail

Ad Reinhardt (19131967)  studied both Eastern and Western art history at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He deepened his understanding of Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies by attending the lectures of Zen teacher Daisetz Suzuki at Columbia University. Number 22 (1949) shows Reinhardt fusing Eastern and Western traditions by using calligraphic brushwork inspired by Chinese and Japanese calligraphy in a gridded composition influenced by those of de Stijl cofounder Piet Mondrian.

Ad Reinhardt Number 22 Detail
Number 22, Detail

In classical East Asian painting, the fragility of paper wet with ink limits the artist’s ability to rework the composition. The sturdier canvas support and slower-drying oil paints used throughout much of the history of Western painting allows artists to highlight various revision and layering techniques. Although he worked in oil on canvas, Reinhardt chose to restrain himself and not rework his painting’s surface, in keeping with Asian calligraphic traditions. The result is a far more controlled manner of gestural painting than those of the Abstract Expressionists.

Photographed in the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Eva Hesse, Untitled Abstract Painting

Untitled Abstract Painting
Photo By Gail

This Untitled Abstract Painting (circa 1963 or 64) is one of the last paintings made by Eva Hesse before she switched to sculpture. Its deconstructed symbols, figures, and shapes evoke natural forms and bodies without ever being directly identifiable. Delicate brushwork, soft colors and a light, witty touch lend this work a feminine quality that she intended as a rebuke to the masculinity of Minimalist ArtHess was reading Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex at this time, and the text led her to question her own fragmented status as artist, woman and wife. Her work, though not overtly political, explores these issues in poetic, expressive abstractions.

Photographed in the Jewish Museum in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Elizabeth Murray, Once

Once
Photo By Gail

In 1978, Elizabeth Murray (1940 – 2007) made a series of irregular, star-shaped paintings with the aim, she said, of “trying to complicate and obfuscate the edges” of her medium. Indeed, the jostling contours and vivid colors of Once appear to explode outward, as if pressing the very form on the canvas into new arrangements. Murray’s dynamic compositions, charged brush strokes, and radical disruption of the frame transform the picture plane into both surface and object. While these paintings appear purely abstract, hints of imagery and reference return in subsequent works. Drawing on Cubism, Surrealism and Minimalism, Murray’s fragmented geometries and biomorphic shapes reinvigorated formalist painting in the 1970s and 1980s.

Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Joan Snyder, Hard Sweetness (From the Stroke Series)

Hard Sweetness

Hard Sweetness (1971) is one of Joan Snyder’s Stroke paintings, a series in which abstract imagery and mark-making register personal and political struggles and decisions. Snyder began making art in the late 1960s, a time when men dominated the art world. Her sensibility and style were inspired by feminism, music, Expressionism, and her own life experience, as well as dislike of the distilled macho aesthetics of Minimalism.

Hard Sweetness uses strokes of paint in soft stains, loose washes, and thicker scumbling ( applying a very thin coat of opaque paint to give a softer or duller effect) to create rhythmic, almost musical passages of color across the canvas. As the title of this work suggests, Snyder blurs the distinction between the senses of sight, taste and perhaps even sound and smell. Like her contemporary Eva Hesse, she balances a feminine palette with a muscular formal complexity.

Photographed in the Jewish Museum in Manhattan.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Rudolf Bauer, Invention (Composition 31)

Invention (Composition 31)
Photo By Gail

By the late 1920s, Rudolf Bauer (1889 – 1953) had replaced the lively and organic symphony of shapes that he had developed in his earlier work with a more balanced aesthetic. Invention (Composition 31) (1933)  epitomizes this trend and features flat geometries tightly gravitating toward a dark center, a hazy black shape perhaps symbolizing the ultimate void. Also around this time, museum founder Solomon R. Guggenheim became acquainted with the artist through Bauer’s former companion, Hilla Rebay. Not only was Bauer’s work amassed in depth, but he also played an integral role as Guggenheim’s European agent in the first decade that Guggenheim spent forming his modern art collection.  Invention (Composition 31) was reproduced on the cover of the catalogue Art of Tomorrow, which accompanied the opening exhibition of the Guggenheim Museum’s Non-Objective Painting, New York in June 1939.

Installation View
Installation View

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