David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce a solo presentation at Frieze London of new paintings by Mary Weatherford. An artist who harnesses the power of past art-historical models by pointedly critiquing them, Weatherford channels the subjective force and scope of abstract painting, and abstract expressionism in particular, while simultaneously dismantling its dominant narrative tropes. Since the beginning of her career she has rooted her work in subjective experience and brought a feminist perspective to what is perhaps the defining category of modern and contemporary art, breaking down preconceived notions of scale, technical achievement, and formal progress. At the same time, she approaches the making of her paintings with a kind of insouciance found in punk music, foregrounding the immediate tactile qualities of her surfaces and delighting in disruptive, often sculpturally-oriented moves. The latter reinforce the notion that painting is no more and no less than the production of an object classified according to a set of rules, many of which, in her hands, feel destined to be broken.
At Frieze London, Weatherford will debut a new group of paintings that feature the use of neon tubes, a typology she has continued to develop over the last few years. Gestural abstractions rendered in thin, often transparent layers of Flashe paint, the hovering or swirling masses that characterized many of the earlier works in this series now give way to swarms of discrete brush marks. The overall compositional strategy now increasingly hinges upon fragmentation and controlled chaos, as well as a heightened sense of urgency and activity: Each brushstroke possesses its own agency. In part this has been achieved through erasure, as Weatherford uses wet sponges to remove pigment and reveal the comparatively neutral color of the ground. Honing her brushed marks, she further articulates their relationship to the negative space whose textures define them as much as their hue or direction. The neon tubes, meanwhile, continue to chip away at the self-contained nature of the picture plane. Each painting asserts itself both physically and optically in the space before it.
Such totalizing atmospheric effects are evident throughout the presentation, but are particularly prominent in a large-scale work, Weekend, that is its centerpiece. Over 13 feet long, the painting seems to capture the violent beauty of a wildfire transforming earth into combustible material that fills the sky. The whitish neon that streaks diagonally across its center, meanwhile, reminds the viewer in concrete terms that light itself and the eye that perceives it are also active agents of transformation.
Mary Weatherford (b. 1963, Ojai, California) has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, Claremont McKenna College, California (2014), LA><ART, Los Angeles (2012); Todd Madigan Gallery, California State University, Bakersfield (2012); and MoMA PS1, New York (1989). Recent and upcoming group exhibitions include Aftereffect: O’Keeffe and Contemporary Painting, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2016); Pretty Raw: After and Around Helen Frankenthaler, The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (2015); The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); and Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014). Weatherford lives and works in Los Angeles.