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Mary Weatherford: The Japan Drawings brings together four new groups of works on paper produced during a 2019 residency at Troedsson Villa in Nikko, Japan. These drawings emerge from the same kinds of prompts that give rise to Weatherford’s paintings: each represents a synthesis of abstract material experimentation and response to a particular place, time, experience, or idea. While their gestural brushwork and complex spatial effects offer clear parallels to her neon paintings, for instance, more subtle connections also abound, providing viewers with fresh points of access to the prevailing dualities—between heaven and earth, individual encounter and collective imagination, cultural history and direct sense perception—that have fueled her project for more than 30 years.

The residency at Troedsson Villa, founded by artist Anne Eastman in 2015, provides immersion in a unique setting where notable examples of ancient and modern architecture (including famous shrines and temples) exist within a forest landscape. Weatherford’s new works on paper reflect the nuances of this environment and her impressions of her time in Japan generally, resulting in a range of compositional approaches, color palettes, textures, and moods.

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In a group entitled In the cedar forest, the sylvan atmospheres of Nikko find their most direct expression. Greens, browns, and yellows cascade across each sheet of handmade paper, specially made for Weatherford in Japan. Thick bands of color alternate with thinner, calligraphic strokes. Verticals and horizontals intersect in surprising ways that evoke the movement of trees and the rolling terrain beneath them. These qualities are further enhanced by folds Weatherford has made in the paper in some cases, introducing a subtle, trellis-like architecture and sense of dimensional relief. Several of the drawings from this set also feature a prominent red arc that bisects the picture plane; these works are inspired by Shinkyo Bridge, which serves as a kind of entryway to Nikko’s shrines and has appeared in the work of poets and artists for hundreds of years.

Text-Image

Mary Weatherford
In the cedar forest, 2019
shellac ink on Gampi Torinoko paper
22 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches
(57.2 x 76.5 cm)
framed:
24 3/4 x 32 3/8 x 1 1/2 inches
(62.9 x 82.2 x 3.8 cm)

Inquire

Text-Image

Mary Weatherford
In the cedar forest, 2019
shellac ink on Gampi Torinoko paper
22 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches
(57.2 x 76.5 cm)
framed:
24 3/4 x 32 3/8 x 1 1/2 inches
(62.9 x 82.2 x 3.8 cm)

Inquire

The daylit luminosity of the forest drawings finds a seductive contrast in another group, night sky, Nikko. The works in this group feature broad strokes of black and dark blue, often layered on top of one another, that together form rich, deep fields of color surrounded by narrow margins of negative space. The sky, thus, becomes a standalone thing with a shape and edges, suggesting that Weatherford has rendered something like the act of looking, which is not always continuous but contains gaps and disruptions as the eye is distracted by thoughts, memories, and other bodily sensations. The particular observation that prompted these drawings was a view of the darkness above from the parking lot of a supermarket, emphasizing that mystery and romanticism can be at their most acute in seemingly ordinary circumstances.

Text-Image

Mary Weatherford
night sky, Nikko, 2019
shellac ink on Gampi Torinoko paper
22 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches
(57.2 x 76.5 cm)
framed:
24 3/4 x 32 3/8 x 1 1/2 inches
(62.9 x 82.2 x 3.8 cm)

Inquire

Text-Image

Mary Weatherford
night sky, Nikko, 2019
shellac ink on Gampi Torinoko paper
22 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches
(57.2 x 76.5 cm)
framed:
24 3/4 x 32 3/8 x 1 1/2 inches
(62.9 x 82.2 x 3.8 cm)

Inquire

Such are the moments that travel makes possible. It can also bring out unexpected connections between new observations and existing lines of investigation or bodies of work.  Weatherford's Cosmos drawings are responses to the autumnal sight of the eponymous pink flowers throughout the Nikko countryside. The pictures’ staccato rhythms pick up the energy of pink blooms waving against green foliage and moist earth, but in name and visual presentation (including the predominance of pink) they contain uncanny parallels to some of the artist’s most ambitious paintings from the last few years, in which she reflects on the vastness of outer space, the science of contemporary physics, and the many expressions of humanity’s attempts to see what lies beyond in art, music, television, and film. Into Space and Time (2020), the most recent example of these, is currently on view online as part of the gallery’s One-on-One series, dedicated to contextualizing single artworks within their artist’s practices and broader art-historical narratives. Seen in the sweep of Weatherford’s work as a whole, the fleeting existence of a cosmos flower and the unfolding of the universe itself become unified phenomena, mirroring and shedding light on each other.

Text-Image

Mary Weatherford
Cosmos, 2019
shellac ink on Gampi Torinoko paper
22 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches
(57.2 x 76.5 cm)
framed:
24 3/4 x 32 3/8 x 1 1/2 inches
(62.9 x 82.2 x 3.8 cm)

Inquire

Text-Image

Mary Weatherford
Cosmos, 2019
shellac ink on Gampi Torinoko paper
22 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches
(57.2 x 76.5 cm)
framed:
24 3/4 x 32 3/8 x 1 1/2 inches
(62.9 x 82.2 x 3.8 cm)

Inquire

A suite of drawings grouped under the title Shibuya Crossing offset the idyllic nature of Weatherford’s stay in Nikko and are filled with the frenetic energy of central Tokyo, which she visited periodically during her time in Japan. Opening a visual conversation with this busiest of thoroughfares, she records swarms of linear marks, with bold, saturated colors separating themselves from the fray. She forges a synthesis between the rich history of Japanese ink painting—with its focus on a paradoxical balance between freedom and precision—and the evolution of abstraction in the west. Negative space plays a key role in this series, allowing the paper to contribute its textural qualities, as well as its particular warmth and light, to compositions that seem to take shape from many directions at once. Weatherford not only captures the sights of the city and the people moving through it, but also communicates the experience of their sounds and their physical presence. This total approach speaks to her willingness to immerse herself in each facet of artmaking, of which material choices are only one element. Brush touching paper is merely a single moment in an ongoing process of vision, feeling, thought, and movement.

Text-Image

Mary Weatherford
Shibuya Crossing, 2019
shellac ink on Gampi Torinoko paper
22 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches
(57.2 x 76.5 cm)
framed:
24 3/4 x 32 3/8 x 1 1/2 inches
(62.9 x 82.2 x 3.8 cm)

Inquire

Text-Image

Mary Weatherford
Shibuya Crossing, 2019
shellac ink on Gampi Torinoko paper
22 1/2 x 30 1/8 inches
(57.2 x 76.5 cm)
framed:
24 3/4 x 32 3/8 x 1 1/2 inches
(62.9 x 82.2 x 3.8 cm)

Inquire

Mary Weatherford (b. 1963, Ojai, California) is currently the subject of a retrospective exhibition, Canyon–Daisy–Eden, that opened in February 2020 at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and will travel to SITE Santa Fe. Other solo exhibitions include shows at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California (2014); Todd Madigan Gallery, California State University at Bakersfield, California (2012); and LAXART, Los Angeles (2012). Recent group exhibitions include Aftereffect: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Painting, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2019); Feel the Sun in Your Mouth: Recent Acquisitions, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2019); Between Two Worlds: Art of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2017); NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015); Pretty Raw: After and Around Helen Frankenthaler, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (2015); and The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014). Her work features in the permanent collections of many institutions, among them the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Brooklyn Museum, New York; K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 2019, Lund Humphries published an in-depth monograph surveying the artist's oeuvre. Weatherford lives and works in Los Angeles.

To learn more about Mary Weatherford, please view these articles in Art in AmericaBOMBThe Brooklyn Rail, and the Los Angeles Times, or purchase a copy of the exhibition catalogue like the land loves the sea.

Images of Japan © Mary Weatherford, taken during her residency at Troedsson Villa, Nikko

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