A title like “Maine Masters of Modernism” – as the demonstrate at Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Falmouth (by Aug. 20) is referred to as – sets up some really substantial expectations. It indicates artists at the zenith of their skills undertaking a little something innovative, iconoclastic and/or at a amount of awe-inspiring proficiency and method. Does “Maine Masters” provide on that guarantee? Typically yes, and sometimes no.
A good range of operates assertively present an excellent, convincing scenario for the title. Amongst these are Lynne Mapp Drexler’s “Blue Peninsula,” David Driskell’s “Sunset Island Freeport” and various paintings by Robert S. Neuman.
Drexler’s massive 1971 oil on canvas, which seizes your attention from its placement on a terra cotta-coloured wall reverse the front doorway, was painted at a important turning stage in her job. That 12 months she and her spouse, fellow painter John Hultberg, bought a home on Monhegan Island, in which they escaped from New York each individual summer months and the place, eventually, Drexler lived 12 months-spherical till her demise.
Up to then, her get the job done was mainly abstract, and “Blue Peninsula” is unquestionably that. Drexler’s abstraction, on the other hand, was wholly original, not like anybody else’s. She would sooner or later be associated with the Pattern & Decoration movement of the mid-1970s and early 1980s, which took inspiration from so-known as “feminine” and “decorative” sources this sort of as Moorish, Byzantine and Significantly Eastern wallpapers and textile styles, although a single could also argue an affinity with Gustav Klimt’s sample-filled canvases.
It is a hypnotic tour-de-power of colour, ovoid styles and wavy traces, and you cannot get your eyes off it. But the wavy strains (as properly as the title) also presage a stylistic change toward the synthesis of abstraction and representation that would define her later on work. By her loss of life in 1999, her paintings would obviously, if nevertheless abstractly, advise the art colony’s woods, shoreline and folks.
David Driskell, at the moment the subject matter of a spectacular retrospective at the Portland Museum of Art, was well known for his depictions of pine trees. If there was any dilemma that Driskell was a Maine learn of modernism, the PMA’s exhibition definitively puts it to rest. “Sunset Island,” with its skillful layering of color and otherworldly spirituality, is absolutely a extremely wonderful specimen of this function.
Neuman’s parts convert out to be a revelation. A indigenous Idahoan of Swedish and German extraction who analyzed with, amid others, German Expressionists Max Beckmann and Willi Baumeister, he was affected by a varied panoply of fellow artists. These bundled many he encountered during his peripatetic lifestyle: California modernists these types of as Richard Diebenkorn, Spanish painter Antoni Tàpies and Italian artist Alberto Burri, to title a couple of. But his coloration feeling and some of his symbolist compositions also have clear ties to Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee.
Not shockingly, the 7 performs on screen, executed involving 1961 and 2007, protect a large amount of ground. Moss has juxtaposed “Mirage” (1977) and “Winter Storm Schoodic” (2001). The only consistencies among them are their dazzling Pop colour palette and largeness of scale. Usually, “Mirage” is analytical, pretty much mathematical in its calculation and its meticulously calibrated assembly of geometric varieties. In this feeling, it’s like Klee, but considerably additional demanding. But by the time Neuman approached “Schoodic,” the wildness of Maine’s coast had driven him to ebullient, just about feral abstraction.
A further fascinating pairing is Neuman’s “Homage to Stravinsky” (1971) and “Lame Deer Study” (2002). The previous is all geometry – mostly circles and 50 % circles – but composed like Kandinsky’s theoretical Bauhaus-interval functions to recreate the dynamic musical movement of a Stravinsky symphony. Conversely, “Lame Deer” was a series that arrived about following a take a look at to a Indigenous American reservation in Montana. Teepee shapes, rendered almost like primitive petroglyphs, are not tough to discern. But they float through summary fields of slim, splotchy shade that give them no floor to land upon – evidently a political reference to the injustices European white adult males perpetrated on them, forcing Indigenous Individuals to be what he called “people frequently in flight.”
That is the best joy of “Maine Masters” – seeing how artists designed and morphed around time, even though retaining signature sensibilities. Will Barnet starts with geometric abstraction in “Untitled, 1954-1959” and proceeds to the flat-planed representational photos of people, cats and crows with which we most associate him (“The Crows I” from 1996, a image of his granddaughter, is especially emblematic). But we see that he in no way misplaced his adherence to grids, triangles, circles and rectangles as fundamental organizational structures of his compositions.
Stephen Tempo is represented by 3 undated performs that toggle concerning the Summary Expressionism he absorbed from his instructor Hans Hofmann and the figural functions of rural daily life whose design and style reveals the affect of his close friend Milton Avery. A painting like “Jerusalem Artichokes” seems to walk a thin line between abstraction and illustration. The by way of-line below is a enjoy of pure, undiluted pigment.
All of these functions live up to the title in a single way or another. As do a pair of etchings by John Marin and Henry Kallem’s “28th Avenue Bottles” (however his “Psychedelic Raft Monhegan Island,” though absolutely iconoclastic, is much less fascinating).
But there are some puzzling inclusions. Geraldine Tam’s “Rosa Rugosa” and “Lupines” are certainly beautiful and masterful in their illustration of these plant sorts. But it is difficult to discern from the precision of her botanical reportage what helps make them modernist. If just about anything, they are even far more meticulously precise and unromanticized than those of Pierre-Joseph Redouté, the painter and botanist whose patron, Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, named him her formal artist.
The very same goes for Charles Woodbury’s “Looking South from Perkins Cove” (1910). Nevertheless his function was absolutely expressive in a way that was fewer educational, Woodbury was essentially a painter of impressionistic maritime scenes. It feels like a tiny bit of a extend to contact his art modernism. It’s kind of like contacting J.M.W. Turner or Winslow Homer, as ahead-thinking as they have been for their time, fashionable masters. We can only do this if we broaden that expression in a way that seems at odds with actuality. This does not in the least reduce the splendor of the painting, which is rather transferring.
There are also a couple is effective that are simply uninteresting and whose winnowing could possibly have designed a more continually impressive influence on the viewer. But this is a minimal quibble. Overall, the exhibition proves but once again that Maine was a substantial locus of creative ferment in The united states.
Jorge S. Arango has written about artwork, style and architecture for over 35 many years. He life in Portland. He can be attained at: [email protected]