Not Quite: An Exhibition Review

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A strip of tape with the words “caution, wet paint” scrawled in sharpie provides introduction, not to a hand railing or a bench, but rather a painting in an exhibition. This small notification may hope to protect the unwitting visitor’s stray elbow, or to prevent the painting from being smudged. However, this precaution also lets the audience know that the artist was probably working on this piece up until the last minute, along with several other paintings in the room. An element of haste is present in much of the show, the tape being just one factor. In the painting shown, large amounts of color are delivered in broad, cluttered marks. Orange, that may have had potential in the upper left hand corner, is made muddy when smeared with black. Light blue is introduced, but lacks cohesion with the pre-existing colors. An interesting play between the deep blues and blacks of the lower right hand corner is interrupted by thinly applied yellow. Narrow, dark brush strokes have range of clarity and opacity, but do not have strong form or contour. There little depth in the colors used, as they lay flatly against one another. Many of these decisions seem to be have made quickly, maybe unthinkingly. It is clear that the artist has some skill, however the areas that demonstrate this are overwhelmed by choices not as fully thought through. Perhaps he was working against a deadline, and did not have the time needed to produce a more successful piece. The wet paint would support this possibility. If just a painting or two are recently finished, so be it. However, when more than half of the paintings in the exhibit have not had the chance to dry, it shows that the artist was rushed in his completion of these paintings. In order to claim a work as finished, most cases require time to consider the work, and explore what may be done better. Without a deadline looming over the artists head, he is able to step away from the work for a while, and return to it later. On coming back to it, he may decide to change or improve some aspect. If the majority of the work is done in order to make the exhibit complete, then an element of value is lost.  Deliberation is absent, and though this may have been the artist’s purpose, it could have been executed with more insight.

Just across the hallway from this rather disappointing exhibit is a closed door, labelled “studio space”. On entry, the immediate impression of work in progress is evident. Sketches and color studies hang from every wall, paint stains the floors, and every available surface hosts a number of palettes and paintbrushes. Several of the paintings present are on their way to being finished, the canvas not quite covered, the preliminary sketch still visible. However, though these pieces do not claim to be finished, some of these show more thought and effort than the exhibit next door.

This exhibit was provided by the New York Studio School, which has some very successful work on its website. If you are interested in learning more about the school, or would like to see more student work, go to: http://www.nyss.org/

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