;//'';';';'M765432`4uuuuuyuuu 7aureen Gallace November 2020
Maureen Gallace November 2020 is an online exhibition of new works on paper and serves as a complement to Gallace’s debut exhibition with Gladstone gallery in the Fall of 2019. This was the first time the artist exhibited works on paper: dry media drawings and acrylic paintings. For the majority of Gallace’s career, the use of paper whether it be drawings or paintings, remained largely private and unexhibited. The artist primarily preferred oil painting as a medium to mine the psychic and visual nuances of her tightly focused subject matter—New England landscapes and beaches, houses, flowers and more. However, in recent years Gallace has been applying the meticulous approach found in her oil paintings into dry-media drawing and acrylic paint on paper. This online exhibition includes...
To the naked eye, the differences between a drawing and an oil painting are apparent, while the differences between an acrylic painting and an oil painting may be less so. To Gallace, these differences in paint mediums are immense, resulting in distinct outcomes of look and feel. The same can be said for how, to her, a painting on panel, canvas, or paper are similarly a world unto themselves. Thus these differences between painting mediums, not only affect the surface of the painting (colors, mark, sheen), but since paint handling is affected by the medium, the process itself changes. And for painters like Gallace whose mark holds a recognizable, unique presence—her highly legible language—these differences in medium and physicality are both mechanical and substantive.
In these works on paper the themes of Gallace’s known subject matter are present, but so too are specific sets of challenges that working with acrylic on paper presents. One might perceive the outcome of Gallace’s work as a kind of unfettered virtuosity and effortlessness. But to Gallace, while certainly benefiting from a well-honed ability, every mark and area of the surface is necessarily paired with the struggle to “make it all stick.” The viewer may be able to detect this balancing act not so much in technical elements or surface observations, but more so in an uncanny “feel” of the work where the tension of “parts” and paint or line and mark come together to form a perhaps idyllic picture in one instance, while also embodying the more opaque realm of necessary struggle, individualized perfectionism, and untold redoes.
If nothing else, painting as a practice and as a medium may be defined by its ability to endure. Thus while it’s important that a painting of a beach in 2020 may evoke a specific beach crashing down waves as we speak, it is equally noteworthy that this painting may intentionally, lovingly evoke a similar impulse of coastal painters from Homer to Porter—speaking to a cultural and historical continuity in our human draw towards visually interpreting our environment through painting and mark making. And it is the unique and individual effort to succeed at this endeavor, its repetition and reinvention, and the audacity in doing so despite whatever art rules and favor are in vogue at the time (coming and going like waves on a beach) that sustains Gallace’s practice. Or to repurpose a line from above, her work focuses on a “cultural and historical continuity in our human draw” towards such practices and the unique human-made things of value that are created.
The urge to create and capture by way of drawing and painting has humanistic, universal appeal. But it is the details of the creation and its unique outcome (is the painting “good”?) that separates a universal “urge” from the unique individualism that enables these traditions to possess ongoing (institutional, critical, cultural) relevance. In other words, without the sustained individual reinventions of the medium, with credible propositions to value, the cultural relevance of this tradition (or any) might dwindle. And instead, with painting, certain genres or the tradition itself may become relegated to kitsch or recede into the finite archiving of celebrated past endeavors. To whatever degree this is true, it is to say that these ongoing endeavors themselves have meaning; they are loaded with instinct and values that serve both the individual artist’s needs, alongside a larger force of historicity and one’s judgement of that history’s relevance to the present. Here we might be tempted to discuss the “tension” or “harmony” between these two forces—the free will of the artist alongside a fixed, restrictive narrative of history. But before tension or harmony achieves any relevance to any of this, things still begin with the individual and their direct relationship to the world and their environment on a visceral, tactile, living level. This happens before all of the cultural and intellectual filters get applied, and before history’s narratives take hold.
To that end, Gallace’s paintings represent a mindful but gut-driven, visceral and tactile experience first, conveying a clear-spoken appeal to an anti-ironic solemnity allowing the artist to paint, to look and to invent. All seemingly without the burdens of self conscious, permission-seeking neurotic mind gremlins. This has allowed Gallace to carve out a radical/anti-radical individualized space within our field of contemporary art, which is no small feat. It isn’t that external Modern and Postmodern critiques are irrelevant here, they can make the discourse interesting too. But that particular mode of contemporary art and painting—the reactionary, sometimes calculated, competitive and performative pursuit of Defining The Now— gets knowingly reinterpreted by Gallace on her own terms.
These terms, it could be argued, interrogate how we measure the breadth of what Now even is. Is our current moment more influenced by, say Mark Zuckerberg than John Dewey? The answer is of course, yes and no, dependent upon what forces we’re analyzing, and how we set our scales to measure what values. For better and worse, these values cut through time and era. And aside from battling through the fray of culture, technology, and politics, another way to articulate our sense of Now-ness is to foreground our sense of human-ness. And unique to “us” is our ability to create objects that capture our sense of intelligent experience. So even if one’s “experience” is subject to embattlement and interpretation, maybe if we can simply experience better— less filtered and externally manipulated— then with clearer minds might we someday finally “have nicer things?” Nicer things, in this case, having nothing to do with material ownership but to possess a mindset and ethos towards a more lovely world.
Art in general casts this vote in a myriad of ways. Similarly, Gallace’s work captures this human appeal to “experience better.” Her aesthetic and her process relays a sense of direct experience, allowing the act of looking and experiencing to feel less passive, promoting a sense of immediacy and intimacy into the exchange between artist and object, object and viewer. This evokes a correlate to how the painterly language of the impressionists and expressionists' balanced objectivity and abstraction where a subject’s perceived objectivity might anchor a work into a fixed state of place or origin, while conversely the abstraction frees the work from being fixed only to that place. It now exists in ours, too.
In Gallace’s work, objective subject matter is derived from the artist's personal mapping of space, place, memory, and focused attention to specific New England and east coast environments. And despite the artist having her own personal narratives, joys and tragedies, to accompany these subjects (how could it be any other way?), these narratives remain largely opaque. Thus similar to how abstraction in this context provides an element of freedom in perceiving, so too does atomizing any personal narrative, where however embedded it might be, its structures are invisible and beneath the surface. This is similar to how one might either apply or revoke personal narrative to On Kawara’s “Date Paintings.”
Kawara shows us how capturing time, highlighting repetition and exuding comfort with opacity all becomes substance. Kawara’s textual limitations are also what gives its text power. We might consider this when we seek further clues in decoding artworks in general, where often we turn to an artist’s title or textual accompaniment. In Gallace’s work, one title may reveal a specific place and time of year which seems to offer some sense of physical coordinates of time and place, denoting it's own intimate historicity. However, another title may intentionally obscure this information with at times, poetic, elusive or misremembered information. This subtle play with language, facts, information, and the naming of things speaks to Gallace’s ability to examine the physical reality and “truth” of her documented subjects alongside the distinct abstraction and warping of documentation in general. In that sense, perhaps there is no documentation through mark making at all, only creation. Further, if seemingly innocuous titling such as Gallace’s registers as “descriptive” or “standard” (insert title example) but is then open to interpretation, we might further question how the accessible but iconic subject matter of Gallace’s beaches and houses which might also be viewed as a kind of pictorial “standard” (even kids draw houses) as something that arrives to us multi-faceted. The element of freedom the work inhabits and promotes allows things to be as complicated or as simple as we would like to make them.
It’s a fair and fine tradition for viewers and critics to wonder what “ideas” paintings might be offering us, conjoined to a work’s aesthetics. Satisfaction will vary on this front, and artists may define “ideas” differently than viewers might, but with Gallace the “idea” of history can be considered a latent aspect of the artist’s seemingly clear-as-day paintings, paintings that invite us to momentarily forget some things and examine others. And always to look. In doing so, this allows all manner of transitory ideas and feelings about history and how we view the present (via art, culture, the personal, geographic) to unwind in the work— to splay out, light up, dim, linger, recede, go, then go again. And through all of this coming and going, to fortunately never disappear.