"Primarily Painting: Great Summer Exhibition pt.2" review

Painting is dead.

This trope has been exclaimed numerous times over the last several years, only to again be thwarted by persistence and reinvigoration. This age-old process of creating continues to evolve through the hands of talented artists. Galerie Hertz is currently exhibiting an exciting array of paintings from a diverse group of artists. Featuring works by Jean Salmon, Kevin Lippy, Ray Kleinhelter, Evan Fugazzi, Tad DeSanto, Ellen Weiss, Lisa Simon, Billy Hertz, and Everett Ohland.

The gallery is filled to the brim with new works by Ray Kleinhelter. These landscape derived abstractions are characterized by geometric shapes, vibrant colors, and dynamic compositions. Thickly layered applications of oil paint glimmer with glossy saturation. Kleinhelter seems to pull from a broad visual vocabulary of painters and movements of the 20th century. These works appear purely abstract, yet are thematically rooted in the natural world of landscape as suggested by their individual titles.

The vivid hues may seem arbitrary, but there are subtle suggestions to bodies of water and foliage, as seen in “Riverbank #5.” This exaggeration of the natural world brings to mind Andre Derain (e.g. The Trees, 1906) and the Fauvists, who focused on painterly qualities, strident colors, and simplification of one’s surroundings through abstraction. While the individual shapes in Kleinhelter’s paintings are flattened, there are clearly deliberate choices made by an artist with a strong understanding of color theory. These variations in value aptly suggest space and depth, as seen in “Riverbank #1.” After reading the suggestive title, one may notice a glimpse of a flowing river and horizon line in the distance shrouded in atmospheric perspective.

The way in which the artist approaches the rendering of the nature evokes Cubist sensibilities; through the breaking up of objects to be rearranged in an abstract way. In doing so, the artist is able to more accurately capture the essence of a scene by viewing multiple perspectives at once. Kleinhelter’s works specifically bring to mind works by Stuart Davis, who put his own spin on Cubism emphasizing flattened shapes to depict the surrounding world.

Ray Kleinhelter also appears to be inspired by the process of printmaking. An original woodcut by the artist hangs alongside the paintings, serving as a clue to the artist’s process. “Urban River Landscape #1” is a black and white woodcut incorporating hard-edge geometric forms to suggest landscape. One can infer how the recent paintings may be derived from the visual language of the woodcut process. Though these works share similar shapes and forms to this earlier woodcut print, they differ in their colorful saturation.

Other abstract works in this exhibition have fewer ties to the natural world. The energetic works of Jean Salmon bring to mind the Abstract Expressionists, specifically Franz Kline. The artist’s expressive mark making and gestural lines feel spontaneous yet intentional. She emphasizes and celebrates the physicality of the painting process. “Crossing Over” is a great example of Jean Salmon entering a dialogue with these artists, while also bringing her own voice to the table through self expression. Although Salmon’s works are lively, they don’t display an element of anger often seen with artists such as Willem de Kooning. Salmon’s paintings command one’s attention, yet foster quiet contemplation.

The Abstract Expressionists were also known to incorporate unusual objects into artwork (e.g. Robert Raushenberg). Salmon experiments with non-traditional painting elements as well, pushing the boundary between painting and sculpture in “Secret Passages.” This mixed media painting utilizes what appears to be railroad spikes jutting out from the canvas. Through experimentation, the artist pushes the painting into the 3D. Text is also incorporated into this work, with the word RELIC pointing to the metal object. The use of text offers a mysterious conceptual layer, adding an anthropological feel. These non-representational abstract works also bring to mind the art forms of calligraphy and graffiti. The raw expression of scribbly drawing and writing elements are also referential of artist, Cy Twombly. They speak to a collective visual language and the primeval subconscious mind.

While abstraction has reigned in the realm of contemporary painting for some time, figuration and representational works have made a strong comeback. Kevin Lippy is exhibiting a new body of intimate works depicting urban life. These new paintings appear as if Edward Hopper had turned his gaze from the inhabitants of the city and placed the surrounding inanimate objects center stage. While a couple of Lippy’s works do include people, many depict trash cans, fire hydrants, and empty chairs. His saturated color palette creates a mood within the individual works while heightening the visual contrast. Despite the lack of living subjects, these works are incredibly lively and dynamic.

There is a thoughtful quietness in Kevin Lippy’s paintings, inviting the viewer in for a closer look. The artist breathes life into the mundane, capturing our attention with these intimate portraits of the city and the common elements of urban living that may otherwise go unnoticed.

As mentioned previously, these works bring to mind Edward Hopper with a brighter palette. While Lippy’s still life paintings project an optimistic mood, his figurative works read as more pensive. There’s a lonely thoughtfulness expressed in works such as “Earbuds” and “Security Guard.” These paintings capture the ordinary beauty in the fleeting moments of everyday life.

Kevin Lippy’s technique employs a painterly approach to capture glimpses of the world. His brushstrokes visibly swirl together to form beautified representations of urban landscapes in a carefully constructed composition. These interesting arrangements allow the viewer to see through the artist’s eyes, who may be about to cross the street and notices how the shadows spread with the dusk sunlight. In “Hydrant Squared,” we see the way an orange fire hydrant pops against the cool undertones of a nearby street lamp.

Through the rejection of photographic realism, Lippy displays a personal vision of the surrounding world. In doing so, this impression of the world may be more authentic in its subjectivity. The world through and artist’s eyes offers greater sincerity, providing the viewer with poetic representations and quiet ephemeral moments. There is beauty in the seemingly mundane, and Kevin Lippy allows us to see that clearly.

From representation, abstraction, to everything in between, Galerie Hertz boasts a rich variety of quality paintings. As one of the earliest art forms, painting still has a much deserved place in the contemporary art world.

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