Britt Bogan’s canvases vibrate with talismanic force. Eschewing the rigidity of art education in favor of fostering a wilder energy, Bogan has developed an intimate approach to her paintings that often begins with instinctive drawing akin to Surrealist experiments after the war. Like the Surrealists, the artist understands that in the context of so many inconceivable conditions in the world, her subconscious mind contains the most abundant seeds of art making. With her palette dispensing both earthbound and ethereal hues, Bogan allows reduced forms to speak to overarching feelings, such as those which can overcome us upon waking from a commanding dream.
Bogan’s compositions offer unexpected inhabitants: a morning visit with a neighbor leaves a sculptural impression; two human forms merge to become a domestic jug; a pointy Picasso dips in for lunch. Bogan’s arcane figures are not perceived in real worlds; instead, they live as symbols in an outstretched field of rumination. The curious worlds offered in Bogan’s art are raw and poignantly existential, like one conceived by Samuel Beckett had he lived in ancient Rome. The protecting goddess, Athena, recurrently appears in the artist’s works, symbolizing both collective human seeking and human strength, and perhaps also an emblem of self-portraiture.
Sculptor Kate Crassweller works primarily in hand-built ceramic to create biomorphic forms influenced by Modern sculpture and ritual objects. Her clay pieces are largely left unglazed, laying bare the indexical markings of her hands and the modulated surface quality innate to the raw material. Crassweller grew up in the UK and draws inspiration from the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, whose abstract shapes spoke to bodies in physical dialogue as well as in situ in landscape.
Acknowledging this inextricable link between sculpture and the human body, the artist uses eye-like negative spaces within her vessels to imply the viewer’s potential through-passage. Crassweller’s work also concerns itself with the often-gendered tensions between the fine and applied arts. She engaged other careers before focusing on artmaking, and this unrushed development and disinterest in mantles for their own sakes manifests in the work as calm assuredness and precise dynamism.
Painter Sarah Gilfillan finds a shared rhythm for line, color and biomorphic forms in her abstract works. She often begins with automatic drawing, laying down instinctive first outlines of a composition directly on the canvas or transferred from a preliminary notebook sketch. From this loose point of origin, Gilfillan works her paintings toward a place of balance and, to borrow an unexpected word from the artist, “safety.” Gilfillan seeks in the paintings to create space for both caprice and solidity, surprise and structure. The artist’s color palette is rooted in dark, subterranean tones with shocks of white and pastel, and her graphic, emergent shapes recall Dadaist Jean Arp.
Gilfillan’s way with hue and elemental balance feels kindred to the lines of a poem, where abstract, individual components must all unify and bend together toward the larger whole. Working in series to maximize returns on a given approach, the artist’s harmonic discoveries speak in the glyphic language of mystics.
NY-based painter Colleen Herman views art as a space for physicality, intuition and reflexivity. Herman’s canvases sing with gestural marks, recalling the color-sensitive musicality of Wassily Kandinsky and the highly attuned responsiveness of Joan Mitchell. Expression, in Herman’s view, emerges from a bodily wellspring more than from an intellectual one. Creation presents an opportunity to connect to our more ancient, pre-contrived selves; for Herman this transpires usually with accompanying music and slew of oil sticks in her arsenal of colors, which begin to take on characters and moods of their own. Occasionally, the artist’s paintings appear to have overwhelmed the stretcher bars, presented instead as draped, sinuous forms hanging from one point on the wall.
On or off the stretcher, the artist’s paintings typically present component gestural “explosions,” evoking Cy Twombly’s scribbles or Clifford Still’s jagged shapes burning up and down the canvas. These potent tangles contend often with penetrating horizontal lines, like a laundry line cutting across an alley, weighted down with our human accessories. There is both pathos and exuberance in Herman’s compositions, a duality that aligns perfectly with the artist’s contention that art, even abstract painting, is rightly confessional and brimming over with the legible nuances contained by our own mysterious selves. Beginning with large brushes, Herman often discovers herself eventually working the paint directly onto the canvas fibers with her hands. This freely dispensed sensuality as the artist works is richly evident in each composition, as they teem with unflinching juxtapositions of color and palpable confluences of energies.
Cheryl Humphreys’ undulating colors and elliptical topographies deliver a sensory experience. Invoking subtle, highly considered strategies, the artist seeks to generate physical calm in viewers of the work. As with The Bauhaus’ geometric colorists, Rothko’s liminal spiritualism, or the 1970s architect of light, James Turrell, Humphreys identifies perception itself as material.
Printmaking is usually highly methodical and ritualistic, and it is absolutely so in Humphreys’ hands. Through repetition, the human body and mind drop into a more relaxed state; Humphreys builds this into her works like so much respite. Repetition also emphasizes the inextricable interrelatedness of color, texture, shape and scale. As the artist’s compositions shift in hue or size, the forms and textures within them shift too, not unlike the ocean does, naturally, upon entering a cove. Like her aesthetic forbear, Josef Albers, Humphreys’ artwork is influenced by her design work. This interweaving of traditions generates synesthesia-like experience in viewers, whose minds and bodies are uniquely and simultaneously engaged.
Karyn Lyons’ paintings are figurative and yet also take painting itself as subject matter. In the tradition of Rembrandt, de Kooning, Freud and Saville, Lyons takes full advantage of paint’s oily corporeality. The artist dispenses thick layers of medium, working the paint into rich explorations of the human body, both as physical vessel and as theater in which psychological tensions are revealed. Just as paint imitates flesh, so too the canvas becomes a stand-in for buzzing psychic space.
Lyons paints loosely from image sources, which vary from found materials to constructed sets she photographs herself. No matter what forms the image basis, the artist adds elements to her process to untether her painting from its original source. Compositionally, she often isolates a portion of the human form against a uniform field, bringing it to our attention less as portraiture and instead as symbolic of our emotional experience. In some compositions, Lyons also deploys a Richter-esque distortion, blurring the applied lines of paint as if to push the composition as a whole out of camera-focus. This distortion both interrupts our expectation of ‘painterliness’ (challenging the grand gesture as high art's top prize) and suggests metaphysical space as opposed to mimesis.