Wall Works, The Painting Center, New York, NY

Installation view

April 28 – May 21, 2011

The Painting Center is pleased to present “Wall Works,” an exhibition of painting, drawing and installation engaging the gallery’s walls as the primary support and framing device. The participating artists are Rob Nadeau, Morgan O’Hara, Nancy Olivier, Jim Osman, Gary Petersen, Steel Stillman and Dannielle Tegeder. Opening the evening of Thursday, April 28, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, and continuing through May 21, “Wall Works” is curated by Stephen Maine, who will lead a panel discussion among the artists on Tuesday, May 17 at 7:00 PM at The Painting Center. A printed catalogue documenting the installation will be available in May.

For much of its history, the activity of painting was enacted on the wall. From the chambers at Knossos to the villas and municipal structures of Rome, from medieval and Renaissance ecclesiastical architecture to Baroque courts and palaces the mural was a primary vehicle for pictorial space, the wall the substrate of choice for public-scale allegorical figuration both secular and sacred. The tradition continued with vigor through the 20th century in the work of the great Mexican painters and the American artists employed under the Works Progress Administration. Recent and current practitioners such as Sol LeWitt, David Tremlett and Richard Wright have developed non-figurative, non-narrative approaches.

Profoundly invested in wide-ranging aspects of abstraction, the artists in “Wall Works” continue this investigation. Nancy Olivier and Gary Petersen translate grid-based and geometric paradigms of modernist pictorial space to an architectural scale. Expanding upon one of her “Live Transmission” drawing/performances, Morgan O’Hara refers to the trajectory of movement. Deconstruction and materiality underlie the work of Dannielle Tegeder while, for “Wall Works,” Jim Osman’s vocabulary of forms extends to placards, signs and other information graphics. The oculus motif is the basis of Steel Stillman’s project for the exhibition, relating it to both photography and architecture. Rob Nadeau occupies the Project Room with an installation that scrambles pictorial, sculptural and architectural space.

Painting’s traditional canvas or wood support both presupposes and facilitates portability, commodity value, and the experience of painting as private and contemplative—characteristics that do not obtain as readily to immovable, unsalable, public wall works. A wall painting inflects the surrounding physical space differently than a painting-as-object does, becoming indivisible from the viewer’s perception of that space. As is the case with “Wall Works,” such projects are often temporary, bringing an entirely different psychic weight to bear upon the beholder’s perception of the work, and the relation of the work to its site. Within this cluttered context of temporality, community, spatial dynamics and market pressures, the artists in “Wall Works” press on, synthesizing the legacy of wall-based painting and the much younger tradition of abstraction. We would like to extend a special thanks to the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation for their generous support of this exhibition.