The tradition of American geometric painters has tended to aspire to a less idealized order of Platonic absolute. They were rather involved in the expression of the tempo of urban life. Mondrian, for the three and a half years he lived in New York in the early 1940s, had an immense impact on the course of the new abstract painting. Many artists were indebted to his theories of geometric form and relational composition, others followed his restrictive use of colors. There were, however, few who understood the significance of his spatial invention, perhaps with the exceptions of Charles C. Shaw’s irregular and geometric shaped canvases, Harry Holtzam’s painted sculptures, and Charles Biederman’s structural reliefs. Just as Picasso’s discovery of sculpture through the means of his synthetic cubist language after the application of collage, Mondrian, without having ever made any three dimensional work, was acutely aware of the equivocal status of easel painting in relation to its architectural context.
In her third solo show, Yeardly Leonard’s six new paintings, along with the partially painted wall areas, is the artist’s most vibrant and experimental effort up to date. At first glance, one is at once confronted with certain ambivalence in her palette: primary colors with a multitude of their complimentaries. So many combinations are utilized, in fact, that it takes a while to realize her refusal of any particular orthodoxy is her principal charm. Which is not to say that the artist is unable to view her work through her critical faculty. For example, in the two paintings titled "Practice Resurrection"(2004) and "Midnight Sun"(2004), while the actual rotation of the grids is executed with some measure of determinate intuition, their rectilinear forms become spatially active in part because of Leonard’s willingness to submit her self to the process of revision. This is amply revealed in the painted surface.
In accord with her paintings’ compositional requirements and the uniformity of their surfaces, Leonard’s application of the hand painted lines versus the taped lines, as well as the necessary sanded-down areas, enlivens the whole picture plane. This in turn creates both spatial tension and sensual form. As to the extension of the painted form onto the gallery walls, this belongs to another matter: site-specific installation without preconceptualized ideology. Here Leonard is sensitive to the space given to her. Without altering or imposing on the space, with a certain discretion and intelligence, she reminds the viewer that rectilinear form goes beyond the canvas and is an integral part of the environment.
TOMASSIO LONGHI is a contributor to the Rail.