Three Gallery Artists
Three Gallery Artists, a group exhibition of paintings and sculptures at 545 West 20th Street. The exhibition features a selection of work by gallery artists Mark Greenwold, Ralph Humphrey, and Roy McMakin.
Mark Greenwold’s meticulously detailed, psychologically complex paintings from the 1980s and 1990s are multifaceted explorations of the issues and complexities of life. A self-proclaimed “emotional cubist,” the artist revels in the blurred and fragmented narratives that his paintings create. In works such as The House (1988) the artist asks us not to look at the inside of his life, but at our own, warts and all. Greenwold’s famously laborious process mirrors the psychological intensity of his paintings. The artist works under magnification, like a jeweler, employing the tiniest of brushes. He builds up the surfaces stroke by stroke. The result is a kind of delirious realism in which everything portrayed, however realistic, is actually composed of thousands upon thousands of beautiful abstractions.
Equally complex are Ralph Humphrey’s Conveyance paintings, a singularly important, emotionally fraught body of work, created between 1974 and 1977. The paintings—hulking masses of casein and modeling paste in blacks, blues, and purples—often loosely resemble actual objects, like packages or containers. But, what do they contain? Ostensibly, they are vessels for Humphrey’s emotions, life experiences, and ideas about painting. Their textured surfaces simultaneously attract and repel, even as their dimensionality literally forces viewers into the objects’ space. Their actual content is perhaps not so easily read.
Roy McMakin’s aptly titled series, The Middle, refers not only to McMakin being the middle of three children, but also to the unifying strategy that tempered his approach to working with each piece. The works, such as A chest of drawers I refinished (and painted the little flower on the back) to put in my sister’s room when we were kids (2011), have all been intentionally altered, resulting in a group of objects that exhibit total nonfunctionality. As Richard Klein explains, “It might seem counterintuitive that radically altering something could act to preserve it, but what’s being preserved in this case is not each piece of furniture’s outward form, but rather its emotional reality in the context of a human life.” McMakin engages the deep nostalgia he has for these pieces (furniture rescued from his family home) while assuring their continued, albeit altered, existence.
Andrei Bely, the Russian poet, theorist, and literary critic, described the work of his peer, Anton Chekhov, as an assembly of minutiae—“loops from the lace of life.” In the work of Greenwold, Humphrey, and McMakin, every instant is the first and last; a precarious present shot through with the scar tissue of memory.