Amy Sillman’s “Suitors & Strangers” in Houston

“Amy Sillman: Suitors & Strangers,” organized by Claudia Schmuckli. Blaffer Gallery, The Art Museum of the University of Houston, Houston, TX. Through Nov. 10. Ulrich Museum Of Art, Wichita State University, Kansas, April 19- August 5.

In the Houston Press, Kelly Klaasmeyer reports: “Amy Sillman paints like she’s reincarnated from some squirrelly, third-tier 1950s abstractionist. But I mean that in a good way. Sillman’s colors � the turquoise blues, the deep oranges, the bright greens � all allude to fave color palettes from half a century ago and give the work a funky vintage feeling. (She’s even named a painting with a big lime green blob Shecky Green, an allusion to the hokey mid-century comedian.) Speaking of squirrelly, third-tier artists, the linear brushiness of her strokes is reminiscent of David Adickes’s paintings from around that time. But in spite of all that, Sillman’s paintings are really good. Her abstraction is vaguely architectural and figural and dominated by a masterful sense of color. The forms of Sillman’s paintings evolve on the canvas; they feel hard-won without looking overworked, and her colors emerge strong, separate and unmuddied.”

Jerry Saltz reviewed Sillman’s 2006 show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co in the Village Voice. “Rather than sex, these paintings are narratives of their own making. That hand reaching out of the bulbous mass holding onto the bird is attempting to identify, grasp, or experience the otherness of creativity. The arm holding onto what might be Malevich’s Black Square is an image of the attempt to harness the alchemical power of painting. The hand holding a doorknob is, like Sillman, herself trying to open a seal between worlds.” Read more.

In April 2006, Brooklyn Rail publisher Phong Bui had a conversation with Sillman. “I think that there is not any painter that I am not influenced by to some extent, but I would certainly say that the most important painter that I�ve looked at in my life who seems to always inform me is Philip Guston. His painting had a profound affect on my work as early as when I was in art school in the late seventies. Guston�s way of drawing has some strange connection to the kind of drawing that was popular in Chicago, where I�m from�though their work was totally stylized, artists like Barbara Rossi, Jim Nutt and Ray Yoshida, and the prevalence at that time of underground comics and Robert Crumb. If you take all that and you move to New York as a teenager the first thing you�re going to do is look for the thing that reminds you of what you already know. For me, Guston�s work is deeply anxiety driven in a comic, goofy, clunky way, and I could easily identify with it, while I couldn�t relate at that time to painters whose work was more abstract and reductive. I remember being very puzzled when I saw Brice Marden�s show at the Guggenheim in 1975. Some of the paintings were absolutely beautiful monochrome panels with very simple colors and deliberately shown splattered drips at the bottom. I remember them clearly and that was more than thirty years ago. But I didn�t understand them at all and found them frustrating. The next time I stood in the same museum having a crucial experience with reductive abstraction, I was looking at Ellsworth Kelly�s famous five color spectrum piece in the 1996 show called, �Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline,� and all of a sudden I was totally getting it, realizing for the first time how to internalize this kind of reductive painting as a sophisticated, witty statement. I just understood it all of a sudden in a bodily reaction of absorption. It was cool.” Read more.

For more infomation about Sillman and to see images of her work, visit the Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Gallery website.

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