Contributed by Sharon Butler / In a lively group show of large canvases at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, curator Jason Stopa makes a strong case that contemporary painters, particularly those working figuratively, are cultivating a new form of Expressionism. He cites popular culture (cartoons, fashion photography, YouTube videos), personal narrative, and our embrace of online life as the driving forces behind this new direction.
Unlike previous iterations of Expressionism, such as Die Brucke in 1905, Abstract Expressionism in 1940s, Neo-Expressionism in the 1980s, this new figurative movement, led primarily by women, has a tendency toward the anti-heroic, focusing on less — less bombastic content, less exuberant paint handling, and less attention to critical discourse. Except for Katherine Bradford’s visionary images of nighttime pagan ritual and the artist in the night studio, the canvases in the show explore mediated experience — facilitated by online imagery, the robust expansion of surveillance technologies, and self-surveillance via social media.
In adopting imagery without direct reference to the objects that underlie them, the artists seem to be noting — indeed, demonstrating — the disconnected manner in which life is now lived. Fragmentation and detachment–a kind of existential abstraction– are the norm.
Made in-the-moment, what Stopa calls “performative,” rather than as the result of research or philosophical query, these paintings hint at narrative direction and critical perspective, but ultimately beg for an emotional response to the handling of the paint and choice of image. With Expressionism, articulating deeper meaning is optional.
“A New Subjectivity: Figurative Painting after 2000,” with Katherine Bradford, Katherine Bernhardt, Gina Beavers, Jackie Gendel, Liz Markus, Rose Wylie. Curated by Jason Stopa. Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 12th, 2017. Traveling to University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, August 16 – September 22, 2017; Reece Museum, Johnson City, TN, October 16 – December 15, 2017.