Susan Eley Fine Art | November 7 – December 31, 2013
Susan Eley Fine Art in Manhattan recently exhibited a selection of paintings and in a manner of counterpoint, works on paper, as well as a video installation by the New York-based artist Anne Sherwood Pundyk, entitled Stadia.
As a reminiscence of the theater’s stage, the place above all where audience/actor interaction prevails, Stadia refers to the various collaborative and site-specific projects in which Pundyk has engaged over the last three years. Alongside the multi-disciplined artist Bianca Casady of the indie band CocoRosie, Pundyk is the editor of the new feminist arts magazine Girls Against God; in 2012, she situated a prismatic triangle made out of three large paintings under a ceiling-projected video montage, which featured a flow of source images for the artist’s creative output. This structure, in the glass-enclosed midtown space adjacent to the MAve Hotel, was part of her installation RENTED WORLD. Pundyk’s choice of a non-art venue, available for round-the-clock viewing, triggered a number of unexpected reactions and encounters with the public. This unique installation, along with the magazine publishing and her participation in various group exhibitions, are only a few of the many involvements that have led the artist to confront her work outside the intimate and solitary space of her studio.
The work in Stadia, consequently, serves as an open window to the outside world. In these paintings, which consist of a mixture of mediums from oil and acrylic to watercolor and charcoal, the use of large brushes and spackle knives are employed to cover the surface with an array of effects. Through this process of superimposition, which Pundyk also applies to her works on paper, different layers of motives coexist. By playing with the saturation of pigments—opacity and transparency—and by repeatedly scraping the surface, Pundyk lets the previous gestures subtly reappear as pentimenti. Resorting to this technique, she visually accesses the intricacy of consciousness that piles up impressions, experiences, and images. In “Bow”(2013), the energy of the brushstrokes collides with the quiet strength of a wide, tinted grey and sage green area. One can glimpse a delicate face in the composition, whose oval shape brings to mind classical portraiture. In another painting, “Once Was”(2013), a polyhedron fills the center of the canvas. We see the Dionysian uproar of bright interlaces on each of its sides. This prismatic construction recalls Pundyk’s RENTED WORLD installation, where the position of the viewer, his or her shadow, and the movements of the city reflected by the glass windows altered the perception and meaning of the artwork. “Embedded in the string of images layered within each painting are my own essential stories,” Pundyk states. “They overlap with older stories such as myths, fables, and fairy tales. In so doing, they begin to communicate to others the inaudible truth of the inner self.” In this, the artist’s vision effectively externalizes a personal realm while simultaneously connecting it to a collective consciousness.
Echoing elements found in her paintings, a series of small drawings installed adjacent to the larger works on linen reflect a compelling intuition. The blue and white watercolor series “Bodily Fluids,” with its restrained composition, contrast the exhibition’s ensemble of energetic canvases. Using the framework of figuration to pay homage to the feminine state, these diminutive works possess the limpid flavor of joyful memories, tinted by a faint melancholy.
A second series in another room highlights the importance Pundyk attributes to language, where words and writing become material in itself. Painted directly on the pages of a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated, the original printed text can still be spotted underneath a thin whitewash coating of acrylic. Some words have been deliberately spared in this process; others have been circled with a pencil. Like a palimpsest, this procedure gives birth to other words—the artist’s own, hand- or typewritten—as well as geometrical structures or organic shapes. Pundyk observes, “The integration of elements of language—letters, words, sentences, grammar, and narrative—parallels the development of the visual account of my paintings.”
Palimpsests, pentimenti, reflections, and layers reveal the underlying principle of this powerful show, a graphic lexicon served to express the profusion and intricacies of one’s world and thoughts and their evasive aspects.