Contributed by Jason Andrew / Whatever strategies an artist employs to express their art intellectual, psychological, or mythological it must be first and foremost visually striking. In his first solo exhibition in New York, painter Zachary Keeting clears a high bar with a stunning set of ten paintings, on view at Underdonk through March 27.
As co-producer of Gorkys Granddaughter, the longstanding and ongoing documentary interview series on artists, Keeting has been a firsthand witness to art making in New York, visiting the studios of nearly 600 artists since 2010. These studio visits capture the working processes of artists. Each episode is a time capsule of ideas, personalities, and places, driven by Keetings curiosity. He has turned this quality inward, forging a unique path for his own passions.
Keeting has described his works as gushes of feeling, and there is certainly an emotional urgency to these expressionistic works, which span a spectrum of sanguinity and sincerity, dreariness and disheartenment. Its easy to get caught in the earthy clutches of every line a vicious lie or sail into the celestial embrace of heated and hammered and beauty was beauty.
Milestones in the life of the artist such as September 11, the death of his mother, and the pandemic have influenced both the compositional and the gestural direction of these new paintings. Titles for the works are crucial to understanding them and add a layer of poetry to his narrative that sometimes explains his inner compulsions and sometimes obscures it. Above all, Keeting, like other expressionists from Kokoschka to Soutine, renounces la belle peinture, preferring instead to pour, stain, whip, spill, and shunt paint in an effort to reorder our traditional reality. Coat after coat, the paintings topography sates the eye with sensations of color and sensual relief.
sour lake is a sweeping prismatic painting, seemingly carved out over time. Layers of paint drift unweighted by any need for an anchoring horizon or conventional point of perspective. Elements in this painting relate more to shapes found in nature than they do to the more strictly regulated objects of human invention. The absence of a hard horizon positions Keetings paintings in the realm of the cosmic. He frames his works with terms like gaseous and volcanic, which makes sense as one looks hard at the aqueous and bubbly surfaces.
A composer of electronic music, Keeting knows how to build phrasing. Long strokes like those in the painting and so little by little he began to go wrong in the head set an undertone for a cacophony of epicedial collisions, while hard geometric edges make for abrupt and syncopated stops. Keetings orchestration of these pauses keep the painting still but not stiff. mastaba is a fine example of this musicality.
Not every aspect of Keetings process is left to chance. He stays conscious of the physicality of the brush and he wants us to see it. Though the paintings in this group are easel-size, they dont come from the easel. Keeting often works on the floor, circling and straddling the canvas to control direction and manipulate the surface. Painting from observation is also an important activity for him. According to the artist, wads of paper towels and used tape piled up in a corner of his studio become the subject of drawing elements that appear in the work. This is particularly evident in every line a vicious lie.
Abstract art and our appreciation of it has come a long way over the last century. Its exciting to see such a confident and successful contribution by Keeting a true tour de force.
Zachary Keeting: Haunt the Margins, Underdonk, 1329 Willoughby Avenue, #211, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. Through March 27, 2022.
About the author: Jason Andrew is an independent curator and writer based in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. You can follow him on Instagram: @jandrewarts