This summer Lévy Gorvy presents Visible Traces (Mountain Water Air), an exhibition curated by the celebrated artist Pat Steir. The exhibition includes a selection of Steir’s paintings alongside numerous works the artist has said she “hums to” in her mind—art from centuries past, such as historical Chinese scrolls and Kongo sculpture, and works by artists with whom Steir has engaged in ongoing and inspiring dialogue.
Following the January 2019 opening of Pat Steir: Silent Secret Waterfalls at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, and in anticipation of the artist’s site-specific suite of works to be unveiled in October 2019 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., this exhibition spans the two main floors of Lévy Gorvy’s landmark gallery at 909 Madison Avenue.
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Central to the works Steir has selected for this exhibition are questions regarding the nature of abstraction. At what point does an image become abstract? Since she rose to prominence in the 1970s, Steir has channeled inspiration from East Asian art, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy, European Romanticism, American Minimalism, and Conceptualism into paintings that masterfully synthesize gesture, process, and reference. As Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu recently conveyed, “Steir’s signature, multilayered canvases have time and time again redefined what it means to be a contemporary painter. Working within a framework that is simultaneously both painterly and conceptual, she has continued to create radical and profound abstractions.”
Among the artists featured in Visible Traces will be the 18th-century Edo artists Hokusai and Hiroshige, 19th-century Romantic Victor Hugo, and 20th-century contemporaries such as Alighiero Boetti, Cy Twombly, and Agnes Martin, whom Steir visited in New Mexico every August for thirty years. Works by Steir’s peers such as Joan Jonas, Mary Heilmann, Brice Marden, Helen Marden, Julie Mehretu, Ugo Rondinone, Stanley Whitney, and Terry Winters will also be included in the exhibition. Together, the paintings and sculptures on view offer a framework in which to consider Steir’s long commitment to the radical freedom that she has explained as, “being more attached to the process than the conclusion.” This liberation has been forged through her relationships to other artists and artworks, through what she has learned from and with them about simplicity, chance, and structure. Visible Traces reveals something of this resonant, ahistorical exchange on such abiding concerns as the potential of paint, the nuance of method, and the resonance of affinity.Installation view, Visible Traces (Mountain Water Air), Lévy Gorvy, New York, 2019. Photo: Frazad Owrang
Alighiero Boetti, Map (Mettere il mondo al mondo) [Putting the world into the world], 1983. Embroidery on canvas 45.375 x 71 x 1.125 inches (115.3 x 180.3 x 2.9 cm) © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Mary Heilmann, Crashing Wave, 2017. Acrylic on canvas 8 x 8 x .625 inches (20.3 x 20.3 x 1.6 cm) © 2019 Mary Heilmann. Courtesy of the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; and Hauser & Wirth, London
Mary Heilmann, Night Swimmer, 1998. Oil on canvas 50 1/8 x 40 1/8 x 1 3/8 inches (127.3 x 101.9 x 3.5 cm) © 2019 Mary Heilmann. Courtesy of the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; and Hauser & Wirth, London
Yombe People, Loango Kingdom, Nail Power Figure, 19th century. Wood, iron, resin, glass, fiber, textile and pigment. Height: 31 7/8 inches (81 cm) Private Collection, Courtesy of Schweizer Premodern, New York. Photo © Schweizer Premodern, New York