By Bill Clarke
September 14 – October 23, 2011
Brooklyn-based Carrie Moyer’s latest suite of paintings, Canonical, marks her fourth solo show at CANADA. In previous work, such as the 2009 Arcana series, Moyer – who has also pursued an agitprop-oriented art practice as part of the duo Dyke Action Machine! – maintained some semblance of figuration, but here, the artist energetically embraces full-on abstraction. The result is vibrant paintings that are a joy to look at.
Perhaps it was the rainy New York weather the afternoon I saw these paintings, but I felt like several of them contained bulbous, biomorphic shapes that looked like clouds. Moyer’s paintings seem to synthesize the work of several artists: painters like Georgia O’Keefe and Stuart Davis, the sculptures of Hans Arp, and the poured latex works of Lynda Benglis. (I was even reminded of Canadian painter Lawren Harris at his most abstract.) “Frilly Dollop” (all works 2011) contains blue, pink and white shapes that slip and slide against one another, resisting any attempt at the flattened surface that an Elsworth Kelly painting might have. Layers of baby blue, white and black puffy shapes float over top each other above slivers of different shades of pink in “Cherry Blossom Time”. Elsewhere, “Midnight at the Oasis”, the series’ most literal work visually, also takes its cue from nature as it transitions, from top to bottom, from an azure-sky blue through to the soft beige colour of sand.
Throughout the series, Moyer is bold in her choice of colour combinations. Palettes that could come across as painfully retro or that shouldn’t work together – olive green and orangey-yellows, or purple with brown – feel fresh and lively. This can be attributed to Moyer’s skilled use of masking and transparency, which generates a visual push and pull between the shapes in the foreground – often painted with translucent, mottled effects – and the solid background forms. This approach is employed most fully in “Rock Candy Chrysalis”, which suggests a butterfly and a mask, and the striking “Down Underneath”, with its miasmas of white and orange, floating above darker shapes like oil on the surface of a shallow pond. Even though these paintings are teeming with shapes and colours, Moyer leaves many areas on these canvases unpainted, which gives the forms room to flow and breathe. Her approach prompts viewers to engage in forming associations freely among the painted shapes. Regardless of what one chooses to see in them, the Canonical paintings illustrate that Moyer is, without a doubt, upping her game.