Bowery Gallery is pleased to present High Tide an invitational installation of oil paintings by Petey Brown. In her new work Brown explores the intricacies of color field, expanding the limits of texture and luminosity in painterly renditions of the beach and water. The show runs June 20 – July 8.
Under, 2015-16 oil on canvas 30×24 inches
Brown includes the figure in fragments: a bobbing swim cap here, a kicking foot there, paint and water caress the swimmer. This allows her to accent the sensuality of the paint while bestowing a subtle message of vulnerability and humor that is consistent in her work.
Green Splash, oil on linen, 36×30
Franklin Einspruch wrote the catalogue essay quoted here:
At its inception, Impressionism extended what was known at the time as Realism – Courbet’s (and others’) jettisoning of Romanticism and Classicism alike in favor of making paintings truer to the appearance of real life. The nature of the Impressionist project was optical. As Cézanne admitted in exasperation to Vollard, “Monet is only an eye, but my God what an eye!”
But it’s in the nature of art for its mechanisms to be made known with ever increasing force. Late Monet was only realist in a manner of speaking. The lily pond did shimmer in the morning mist, no doubt. But the paint told the story, not in the form of documentary, but parable.
Fast-forward a hundred-plus years. The Impressionist method of figuration executed as an array of lively daubs is now a well absorbed item of our technical vocabulary. Like any vocabulary, it can be used in contemporary ways and that’s where Petey Brown picks up.
Mist, oil on linen, 14×12
Brown’s innovation isn’t just to introduce swimmers into Monet’s nacreous depictions of water, horizon line hiked over the top of the picture, although that in itself is a delightful notion. It’s also to use the daub in a notational or graphic way, not so much to show what the swimmers looked like paddling around in the surf, but to mark their very presence: let it be known, a human was here.
Alone in the Sea, oil on canvas 14 x 11 inches
The figure in Alone in the Sea (2016) is recognizable as such through his crimson bathing cap and fragmented silhouette. It doesn’t look like someone observed, but someone abstracted, a sign for an awed recollection of the ocean.
Realizing that fragments would reconstitute the whole in the viewer’s imagination, Brown pushed that aspect of her work until the waters began sprouting feet. In Swimmer (2016), ten toes (and a nose to boot) arise from waters painted cobalt and lichen green. The orange in the sky indicates dusk, but the twin suns setting into the ocean are the feet themselves, glowing hot with radiance.
Floating, oil on linen, 16×12
Feet Yellow 2016 oil on paper on panel 12×9
Feet Yellow advances still further. All that the viewer can see of the bather are the upturned feet and forelegs of his diving form, drawn with a dark magenta line. Brown has raised the color temperature past what we encounter in real life – ambers and golds that apply the memory of hot summer sands to the ocean itself.
High Tide, 2016 oil on canvas ( dyptich ) 40×60
Given larger scales to work with, such as the diptychs in this series, Brown extends her vocabulary into pictures that are decorative in the profound sense, bathing caps punctuating an endless, pearlescent sea as a sparse pattern of colored dots. They are as evocative and charming as a Rinpa folding screen. Conscientiously pursuing a handful of cherished affections for method and subject, Brown has unearthed something significant.
Bronze, 2017 oil on linen 14×11
June 20 – July 8, 2017
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 22nd 6-8pm
Artist Talk: Saturday, June 24th 4pm
Closing Reception: July 8th 3-6pm