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HUDSON, NY — With their vintage timber beams and rough stuccoed walls, the exhibition spaces in John Davis Gallery’s carriage house could easily upstage any artwork within. This is especially the case with the top, fourth floor, where sloping ceilings and wood girders quaintly intrude on the headroom.
Paintings by Ying Li, however, readily hold their own in this space. All 12 of her furiously brushed, vibrantly hued landscapes look to have been produced by a cathartic burst of energy. With seeming abandon, she strokes and sometimes trowels on the paint, and for one particularly encrusted painting — “The Last Tree” (2015) — has even squeezed pigment directly from the tube, embedding smooth strings of color into the churning surface.
But what’s most remarkable about these paintings is the way they combine this indulgent technique with a respectful eye for traditional composition. Her paintings reflect the visual aspect of real scenes — landscapes in Switzerland and Maine, as the titles indicate — and despite their violent surfaces, they locate forms with pictorial, if not topographical, conviction.
As with any capable colorist, Li’s hues don’t simply depict objects but impart a sense of presence. A certain freewheeling discipline gives coherence to these dislocations of color, ordering their intervals across the canvas. “The Last Tree” may have the most tortured surface of all, but we sense a hard yellow receding in space as a sun-splashed path, framed by the elusive blue-greens of shadowed foliage — furiously knitted as strokes, but evanescent in hue. A few jabs of floating white establish flashes of sky behind; streaks of deep blue-blacks, pressed directly from the tube, stand as the adamant trunk of a tree. These events connect in frenetic harmony — or perhaps, in a unity of disharmonies. Is the single stab of pale, green yellow a distant sunlit tree? It’s impossible to say, but it convinces as a natural, observed phenomenon.
If “The Last Tree” verges on the claustrophobic, “Bay, Cranberry Island (Dawn)” (2014) unfolds in broad, spacious bands of yellow, off-white, and rust-red. One feels a vastness of space, even as fierce brushstrokes continuously bring the eye back to the surface.
In a sense, each painting risks two kinds of picturesqueness: first, the charm of its bucolic subject, with scenic mountains, lakes, and trees; second, the captivating aspect of a highly sensuous technique. Their consistent pictorial power, however, reflects an urgent sense of purpose rather than self-indulgence or bravado.
At one end of the floor, under a low, slanting ceiling, three canvases have been propped on the seats of small wooden chairs, lined up like rapt schoolchildren. Not every painting could hold up under such circumstances, but Li’s intense canvases do, holding us rapt as well.
Ying Li: Paintings continues at John Davis Gallery (362 ½ Warren Street, Hudson, New York) through November 8.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…