Out Of View : Claire Sherman, Allison Gildersleeve, James Benning, Nikki Lindt, David Sharpe, Karen Kitchel, Isabelle Hayeur
May 18 – Jul 8, 2017
Robischon Gallery is proud to present Out of View, an expansive multi-part exhibition surrounding the subject of landscape featuring seven noteworthy artists whose varied approach and unexpected stance all explore the less-travelled road. Responsive to their respective mediums of painting, photography, film and video, recognized New York painters Claire Sherman, Allison Gildersleeve, Nikki Lindt and Colorado/California painter Karen Kitchel along with Colorado photographer David Sharpe, primarily utilize the vehicle of abstraction to explore their complex territory while internationally acclaimed, California-based experimental filmmaker James Benning and Canadian photographer / video artist Isabelle Hayeur distinctly engage in a reflective vision. The artists featured in Out of View provide uncommon entry into the natural world, as they illuminate the shadows and re-ignite the familiar. From Sherman’s confrontational, optically-rich tree forms to Gildersleeve’s thicketed fast-paced mark, to the felt intimacy of works by Lindt and Sharpe alongside the psychologically-charged and conceptual imagery of Benning, Hayeur and Kitchel, the artists uniquely reinvigorate their shared terrain. Each investigation and perspective presents a shift in focus, while providing an imaginative glimpse of what lies just beneath or further down the path, Out of View.
Robischon Gallery is pleased to exhibit, for the first time, the commanding work of NY painter, Claire Sherman. Setting the stage for the varied themes in Out of View, Sherman’s cropped massive tree forms and dense woods at twilight, optically challenge the viewer as they also welcome further examination. The dominant scale of the artist’s canvases on view intently overwhelm as counterpoint to the intimacy of the works on paper. With the unexpected range of scale and substantive abstract mark-making, Sherman’s exhibited works offer a surprising take on the tradition of landscape that is both progressive and transformative. While the artist’s paintings are initially based upon her exploration of nature and its forms, at its essence, Sherman is primarily in pursuit of abstraction as a kind of painterly strata or metaphoric visual which she intuitively locates within her subjects.
Sherman reveals, “The physical quality of paint is something I find very seductive. Paint has the ability to describe, fall apart, be chaotic, rigid, uncontrollable, fluid, and surprising all at once. I am a bit manic in the studio. Many of my paintings come together in a day with minor changes made after that initial burst of twelve to fifteen hours in the studio. So the paintings that you see are mostly representative of that day’s struggles, successes, failures; when everything is wet and anything is possible. It means that a lot is at stake, so the first day of painting is usually a whirlwind of joyful stress, pain, elation, fear, and exhaustion. I continue to work on the paintings after this initial long session, but the large decisions were made in the first day.”
As central to her inspiration, Claire Sherman’s paintings are first sparked by her travels. The artist’s various road trips to such wide ranging destinations as Big Bend, TX, Craters of the Moon, ID, Iceland, Zion, UT, to Death Valley, Sequoia, King’s Canyon, CA, and the coastal Redwoods in California, amongst numerous others, prompt Sherman to photograph her subjects. Since specificity of place is not the artist’s primary goal, Sherman’s initial images and research are only present in the studio in order to prompt and allow for the artist’s compositional instinct and mark to organically evolve. Within an exhibition, Sherman is comfortable with presenting a range of subjects just as she is in exhibiting a single theme. The artist is as driven by and at home with the contrasting expressions of both a rich, moss laden branch in a deep forest of charged greens, delicate blues and lavender, as she is making a firm, constructed or sculptural stroke of varied umbers and shades of rose which abstractly elude to the bark of an ancient tree.
Claire Sherman’s simultaneous focus pertains to what the artist calls “unraveling environments.” Whether it is expressed in the form of a fallen or truncated massive redwood at the foreground of a greenish tinged, emptied out sky, or by composing a lavishly painted wildwood just as its light begins to fade, Sherman’s work lends itself easily to the opportunities of metaphor and a sense of the transcendental. In the end, the viewer is assured by the artist’s command of both subject and material and upon immersion, a sense of stillness, as well.
Claire Sherman received an MFA from University of Pennsylvania and a BA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has completed residencies at the Terra Foundation for American Art, the MacDowell Colony, the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, Yaddo, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace program and the Terra Foundation for American Art, Giverny, France. Sherman's work is included in numerous collections including the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the UBS collections in London and the United States, and the Margulies Collection in Miami, FL. Additionally, Sherman has exhibited in major locales in New York, Chicago, London, San Francisco; and Amsterdam, among other sites. Recent group exhibitions include the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco; Gallery Seomi, Seoul, The New Gallery, Austria; and the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY and additional exhibitions in the US and Europe. Sherman is an Assistant Professor at Drew University.
With continued dedication to his medium of pinhole photography, David Sharpe continues to expand on the “Waterthread” series, a considered contemplation of Colorado’s Clear Creek – the river that winds its way down from the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies through suburban Denver, past the city and into the South Platte River. Recognized in the region and critically respected for his large-scale pinhole images of the West, Sharpe's technical means of image-making utilizes handcrafted cameras made from containers such as 35mm film canisters, to create his ethereal worlds. Now working primarily in color, the artist's enveloping style and refined sense of subject offers opportunities for poetic narratives and introspection within the artist's emblematic landscapes. Sharpe's photographs appear dreamlike as they immerse viewers within panoramic, yet intimate contemplative worlds as a means of exploring aspects of place both familiar and in flux.
For “Waterthread,” Sharpe accumulates images that serve not so much as a record in a photo-historical sense, but rather, to express that water is a vital force– building and dismantling as it meanders through the Colorado landscape. Water’s ebb and flow in conjunction with the vicissitudes of weather, move the earth as mounds are formed, eddies are scooped out and floodwaters rampage. As if by design, the river deposits man-made and natural forms, then later, returns with high water to retrieve the objects and reposition them downstream. Sharpe’s photographs likewise reposition the lens, offering a view into the river’s layered accumulations; framing moments as it embraces rock formations and flows eastward. The “Waterthread” photographs’ soft focus, rich pigment and the parabolic view from the pinhole lens provides a template from which to meditate on the river as metaphor - as life-giving and ever-changing.
Sharpe's sense of the world resonates perfectly with the unusual challenges presented in the pinhole photographic process. With masterful technique, the artist works within the known parameters of his medium while seeking the unknown through his direction of each image. Without the control of a precise shutter, Sharpe opens up to and accepts the possibilities of environmental factors like sudden breezes or shifting clouds affecting the image he is creating. In Sharpe's hands, the movement of river water or swirling clouds across the sky will become something other than what it seems or started out to be. As the mutable images translate onto the small rectangle of film curved into the pinhole camera, the breadth of movement exposed at various times of day is registered through the recognizable blurring of edges inherent in the pinhole process. Directing the camera as it visually bends familiar objects into abstracted forms, Sharpe offers a sense of wonder as the sphere-like view of the landscape is manifested. In doing so, he imbues the ordinary with deeper meaning. With senses engaged through his imaginative decision-making process, David Sharpe reveals his uniquely illuminated curvilinear worlds where place and moment perfectly merge.
David Sharpe has an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and attended Colgate and Colorado State University where he studied drawing and photography. He was selected as part MCA Denver’s Biennial exhibition and the Rocky Mountain Biennial at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, a retrospective of Colorado photographers at the Arvada Center’s “Shooting the West” exhibition and featured in exhibitions at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE, Denver’s McNichols Building, Museum of Outdoor Art, Englewood, CO, Republic Plaza and other venues.
Robischon Gallery is pleased to present work by the critically-acclaimed experimental filmmaker James Benning. For over four decades, Benning has been fully engaged in an analytical investigation of the relationships between humankind, nature and the filmic medium. The historical importance of the artist’s investigations – in the varied contexts of film theory, environmental humanities, visual culture and philosophy – speak to the formal coherence of his practice and to Benning’s ongoing relevance as an artistic voice.
In this first Robischon Gallery showing, the artist offers Two Cabins, a video treatise that reflects on distinct utopian and dystopian views of self-imposed social-isolation in the woods. What began as a primal urge by Benning to undertake a building construction on the artist’s Sierra Nevada Mountain property became an examination of what constitutes American values and the nature of what it means to be an outsider. As Benning reconstructed the iconic cabins of American transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau and Ted Kaczynski, the serial killer who became known as the Unabomber – a visual demonstration of the visceral charge surrounding the power of the singular perspective was developed. Thoreau’s famous adventure of isolation expressed the writer’s reaction against the general state of intellectualism and a search for spirituality. The inherent goodness of people in nature was implied, since it was thought by other authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson that people were their best in the woods; self-reliant and using subjective intuition over objective empiricism. Kaczynski’s withdrawal from society, in contrast, had less quixotic and noble foundations and decidedly sinister motivations. In Benning’s expanded multi-faceted exhibition for the Two Cabins project, the artist intellectually allowed for the possibility of Kacynski’s angry, anti-technology missives as worthy of serious thought – even as the artist fully acknowledges the Unabomber’s methods were wholly despicable.
As further background, Benning’s larger Two Cabins project included the small house-like constructions, filled with copies of Outsider art paintings, accompanying the projected views out of the Thoreau and Kacynski windows and coupled with sound recordings from the original sites of the cabins; Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts and Lincoln, Montana. Art in America critic Gregory Volk observes, “Benning's work sonically reaches out across an immense country to encompass Thoreau and Kaczynski, Massachusetts and Montana, 19th-century Transcendentalism and contemporary technologized society. Benning's elemental, contemplative and utterly apt exhibition explores how the American landscape can nurture both utopian inclinations and dystopian mayhem.”
Well-known for long, single shots from a stationary camera, Benning’s devotion to the process of 16mm filmmaking has shifted to digital work, but with the same passion for the observational through studied and polemical understandings of the landscape. At the heart of the larger Two Cabins project, is Benning’s essential film, Two Cabins, which for the “Out of View” exhibition is centrally positioned as a kind of pivot point within the space. Whether as an expression of the lone perspective or the shared view, all human activity is both witnessed by Nature and impacted by it. In examining two scenarios of the solitary man vs. nature within American culture, James Benning draws a prescient parallel to present-day concerns regarding the perceived virtues or detriments of isolation. Benning knowingly leaves an open and universal question for the viewer to contemplate – an ultimate question of identity.
James Benning has an MFA from the University of Wisconsin along with an undergraduate degree in mathematics, also from the University of Wisconsin, which he attended under a baseball scholarship, but dropped out of school to protest of his military deferment while his friends were dying in Vietnam. His political awakening in the 1960s extended in part to teaching migrant children in Colorado to read and write and he also assisted in the start-up a food program for people living in poverty in the Missouri Ozarks. Benning’s work has been the subject of film retrospectives at Jeu de Paume, Paris (2009); the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna (2007); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2005); Anthology Film Archives, New York (1999); and the Whitney Museum of Art, New York (1986), among others. Past group exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial (2014, 2006, 1987, 1983, 1981, 1979) and documenta (2007), as well as presentations at Kunstmuseum Basel (2013); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2002, 1993, 1986, 1979); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2001); Museum of Modern Art, New York (1996, 1993, 1980); and Artpark, New York (1978). The artist’s installations, drawings and silkscreens were the subject of a comprehensive solo exhibition organized by the Kunsthaus Graz in 2014, which traveled to the Kunstverein Hamburg in 2015. He has taught film and video at Northwestern, University of Wisconsin, University of Oklahoma, and University of California San Diego and the California Institute of the Arts where he has taught for over twenty-five years.
Thematically connected within “Out of View,” Robischon Gallery presents Netherland-born Nikki Lindt’s exhibition entitled “Unbound Fragments.” Embracing the power and unpredictability of the wilderness, Lindt’s intimate and modest-scale figurative landscape paintings support a point of view – an acknowledgement of humility when positioning humankind within Nature. Lindt’s relationship to the world was initially shaped by her European upbringing in a place described by Lindt as, “an over-cultivated country filled with crowds of people, constantly swept against the logic of order of Dutch society.” Her consuming observations of a natural world set against the backdrop of a nation which sits below sea level and is reliant on great walls to keep out the ever-rising sea, is a constant reminder to the artist that ultimately, nature is in charge and cannot be truly harnessed forever. This awareness is further expressed in Lindt’s “Dis Place” paintings as she visually explores how memories of place must shift as environmental loss becomes inevitable. Development, pollution, climate change and political shifts all impacted the artist’s own memories of nature and propel her artistic mark today.
With exquisite and loosely-fluid paint-handling, Lindt’s diminutive figures- featureless portraits of humanity- often struggle to maintain balance in fierce winds of mountainous or seaside terrains. Conversely, her figures simultaneously seem engaged in the solitude of the beautiful outdoors. Lindt states, “My paintings and drawings help me explore and reinterpret the time I enjoyed exploring the woods, climbing trees, avoiding the snakes and catching frogs in the streams of my youth. Never has the genre of figure and landscape been so critical and so urgent to my practice. Each painting portrays a fleeting, actively deconstructing moment within the natural world as portrayed in disintegrating parts, flowing or dissolving; the figure solid and seemingly permanent as it is buffeted by wind. In my mind, the figures are persistent strangers in nature, they don't seem to belong there or perhaps even know how they got there.”
In an additional series, entitled “Melting Landscape,” not currently on view, Lindt utilizes the medium of watercolor to further communicate the fragility of nature. The loosely painted abstractions on paper allow gravity to direct the watercolor to drip off the edges. As is true of all of Lindt’s work, her decisions of medium, paint-handling and scale all play a role in her sensitive expression. Whether the dripped paint alludes elegiacally to the vulnerabilities of a disappearing environment or the perception that her figures in the landscape cannot ultimately control the uncontrollable, Nikki Lindt presents the viewer with the question of humankind’s role within nature. In the positive, the artist’s exuberant color, rhythmic order and free-flowing unbound fragments speak to the continuity of Lindt’s visual vocabulary and the promise for all of harmony in relation to the world outside.
Nikki Lindt has a BFA from Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam, Netherlands and an MFA from Yale University. She has received the Pollock Krasner Grant, the Environmental Cultural Award/Grant from the Dutch Milieudienst (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Basic Subsidy Grant from the Dutch Funding for the Arts Program, a Culture Grant, Mama Cash (The Netherlands), 1st Prize, National Competition "Art of Aging Project" where the artist led a group of seniors at the JASA senior center in making a mural with the subject of "Joy" exhibited in New York City and at The White House Conference on Aging, Washington, DC and she was nominated in 2013 for the prestigious Anonymous Was a Woman award. Lindt has exhibited extensively in the US, the Netherlands and Europe and her work has been reviewed in Huffington post, New York Magazine, L Magazine, Herald Tribune, Time Out Chicago and Asian Scientist not only for her painting, but also for her work in opera and film.
In her second Robischon Gallery exhibition, New York artist Allison Gildersleeve’s “Sanctuary” offers a uniquely dynamic entry into the territory where landscape painting and abstraction merge. Essential elements identifiable as tree, rock, water or sky are made highly complex as Gildersleeve intentionally challenges the eye to read where her kaleidoscope light meets the edges of natural forms. The artist greatly expands upon an otherwise expected landscape view, driven by her insistence and curiosity toward her subjects. Gildersleeve’s emotive and seemingly ceaseless mark-making of unpredictable color and heightened spatial sense, reveal that she often feels her subjects on a very personal level. She writes, “These woods I paint are about transgressing obstacles and navigating danger. The fallen logs and thickets of bramble are physical impediments that stand in for personal hurdles, but they also serve as protective elements that shelter a safe place.” Gildersleeve further states, “I live in a city. I paint these reimagined outdoor settings far from the natural settings they represent. These places don’t exist in totality in the real world; they are cobbled together from memory as much as from photographic source material of the woods and coastline of my upbringing. They are combined much in the way street art evolves – a layering of personal tags until abstraction takes root. A new kind of physical space emerges out of this compression of separate spaces that speaks to an experience of time as nonlinear. It’s a stop and go; pause and continue: life unfolding and unraveling as we try to keep pace and comprehend.” Gildersleeve’s abstract approach to the landscape exerts bold moves which not only reflect a kinship to the artist’s urban existence, but to the brushwork of AbEx forebears, as well. Gildersleeve employs a range of energized color, utilizing charged cadmium oranges and shades of crimson against cobalt blues and acid greens, as she comfortably brings contrasting whites to bear – as central or dominant elements and as counterpoints to her many layered alternating hues.
Artcritical writer Stephen Maine states, “While Gildersleeve’s touch is animated and her colors sumptuous, her compositions are abruptly cropped, hedged in by the edges of the canvas as if the viewer is wearing blinders. There is no suggestion of awe-inspiring, expansive space – “sublime” in the Romantic sense. But quite the opposite: a sort of tunnel vision that eliminates the periphery and induces a disquieting absence of context. Gildersleeve’s manifest self-consciousness about her relationship to the modalities of landscape painting provides a welcome bit of friction to her enjoyable blend of chromatic audacity and tactile finesse.”
Allison Gildersleeve affords the viewer in “Sanctuary” with an uncommon vantage point. Her work allows for a range of personal interpretation as the artist’s keen sense of abstraction defies the linear. Thickets become shelters within nature and provide a kind of psychological screen - though the respite they provide is not meant to hide the truth of the world’s inherent wildness. In place, and in her mind’s eye, Gildersleeve’s brush is pulled by her imagination, the sensation of light and the magnetism of abstraction. While the complexities of nature and human nature offer endless fascination and are the spark for the artist’s landscape subjects, it is the act of painting itself which ultimately becomes Allison Gildersleeve’s timeless subject.
Gildersleeve received a Masters in Fine Art at Bard College in 2004, and a Bachelor of Arts from College of William and Mary in 1992. Gildersleeve has exhibited widely across the United States and abroad. Notable solo exhibitions include Asya Geisberg Gallery, New York, NY, Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO, Cynthia Reeves, Walpole NH, Valley House Gallery, Dallas, TX and Galleri Andersson/Sandstrom, Stockholm, Sweden. Selected group exhibitions include Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, NY, CRG Gallery, New York, NY, Johansson Projects, Oakland, CA, PS122, New York, NY, Sharon Arts Center, NH and Gana Art Space in Seoul, Korea. Gildersleeve has been awarded a NYFA Fellowship in Painting, and residencies at Yaddo, Millay Colony, and Vermont Studio Center.
As both a video artist and photographer, Isabelle Hayeur’s engrossing work reflects the artist’s profound concerns about environmental degradation, the places affected by urban marginalization and communities unjustly uprooted by gentrification. For “Out of View,” Hayeur’s video La saison sombre (The Dark Season) is intended by the artist to express a kind of harbinger in relationship to the devastated landscapes and ruined dwellings from increasingly powerful and unpredictable storms. Such losses, expressed by the artist, are the irreparable consequence of shifting weather patterns as they intersect with society’s ongoing economic inequalities. Hayeur’s work passionately addresses and questions humanity’s growing dependence on fossil fuel as it impacts the majesty of nature. As counterpoint, nature’s potential for unleashed destruction is also on full view in Hayeur’s La saison sombre. The video closes with the serene sustenance of nature as cloud-like forms drifting across a sunset-hued sky, but as the shot progresses, the clouds are revealed to be power plant emissions; a suggestion of a perpetual and unrelenting contamination of the environment.
Isabelle Hayeur willingly takes a solid stance and turns an unblinking eye toward the unpleasant side of humankind’s consumptive habits. The artist proves to be equally political and poetic with a constant striving to engage the ambivalence toward the world’s reserves. At once seductive in its layering of frankly beautiful images and disquieting in its sense of abandonment, Hayeur’s work awakens and arouses a reflection that enables, as the artist says, “a willingness to consider the flaws of a dehumanized system” so that nature and culture can robustly coexist to the advantage of all.
Isabelle Hayeur holds both a BA and MFA from the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her work has been widely exhibited internationally in numerous sites such including the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée d'art Contemporain de Montréal, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein in Berlin, the Tampa Museum of Art and Akbank Sanat in Istanbul. A retrospective exhibition was devoted to Hayeur by the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and Oakville Galleries. Featuring a monograph, this exhibition has been shown in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Alberta. She took part in the Arles Rencontres internationales de la photographie in the context of its Découverte prize. Hayeur has been awarded numerous awards including the Rauschenberg Residency (Florida), the International Studio & Curatorial Program ISCP (New York), A Studio in the Woods / Tulane University (New Orleans) and at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha), among others. Her works are to be found in over thirty collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada, the Fonds national d'art contemporain in Paris, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. In tandem with these distinct bodies of work, her site-specific videos play with perceptions of reality by utilizing tromp-l’oeil to visually extend the architectural spaces they occupy within their environments. In 2012, Denver’s public art program at Denver International Airport commissioned a Hayeur video entitled Rising, a projection of an illusory and seemingly endless airport hallway at the Jeppesen Terminal, level 5.
Robischon Gallery presents Karen Kitchel’s latest series “Horizonline” and “Waterway” in which the impacts of agribusiness and the energy development collide with the landscape. Known for her sensitive and meticulously rendered paintings of American grasses, the artist expands her signature visual language by creating two new bodies of environmentally-resonant work. Adding to the intent of previous work which focused on earlier tightly-cropped grass views, Kitchel’s the new series is determined to spotlight America’s dependence on finite water and oil resources. Kitchel pointedly co-opts the very materials and byproducts of industry as her primary artistic medium to advance her conceptual imperative. Comfortable with disrupting the traditionally romantic approach of landscape painting, the new series intently utilizes the problematic materials of asphalt emulsion, tar, oil, wax, powdered mineral pigments and shellac on canvas. The artist further merges science and art as her subjects by referencing botanical specimens, field studies, photographs and on-site observation in order to examine the intersection of compromised waterways, large-scale farming and ranching, oil development and the near-urban horizon along with native and invasive plants. Kitchel notes, “The paintings spill, drip and record the details to find an uneasy dialogue between literalism, representation and abstraction” all the while lending an impassioned voice to the discourse of vanishing landscapes. The artist’s dedication and unconventional approach conflates image and material as it conspires to both energize and subvert traditional landscape painting. With a warm monochromatic palette, a refined sense of space and an assured hand, Kitchel’s paintings are objectively beautiful even as her chosen vistas include pumping derricks, transmission towers or miles of power lines on poles along roadways with prominent posted speed limit signs. Karen Kitchel’s singular vernacular symbolically and effectively illuminates the subject of the consumptive drive of American culture via her artistic use of the petroleum-based material. This artistic engagement surrounding demand and desire places the viewer urgently and unflinchingly in the precarious present.
A graduate of Kalamazoo College and Claremont Graduate University, Karen Kitchel’s work is in numerous permanent collections, both nationally and internationally, including Denver Art Museum, Palm Springs Art Museum, Tucson Museum of Art, United States Department of State Art Embassies Program, the Joslyn Art Museum, Ucross Foundation and The Children’s Hospital of Denver, among others. The Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper, Wyoming presented Kitchel’s retrospective entitled “A Relative Condition: The Landscape Paintings of Karen Kitchel” which brought together for the first time paintings from Kitchel’s cohesive, over thirty-plus year career as a unique artist of the Western landscape.