Art

Like American Haikus in Paint

The cow, taking a big
dreamy crap, turning
To look at me
– Jack Kerouac

An installation view of Lois Dodd's "New Panel Paintings" (image © Lois Dodd, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York)

An eighty-four-year-old woman paints a view of falling snow from a window. That’s Lois Dodd.

Dodd has her ninth solo exhibition, titled New Panel Paintings, at the Alexandre Gallery in midtown Manhattan. The 24 new were were done plein air. Each painting is completed in one sitting.

Dodd paints what she sees: a green scrap of grass leading to a cottage, a yellow field bathed in sunshine, a red flower in bloom. To view a Dodd painting is to contemplate a singular moment in time. There is not fuss, but delight. Pure and simple.

Lois Dodd, "Garden Corner" (2009) (Image © Lois Dodd, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York)

Dodd’s modest paintings read like the American haikus of Jack Kerouac. Like the writer’s three line poems, Dodd is able to capture the essence of her subjects through simplicity and directness of expression.

Lois Dodd, "Dooryard View" (2011) (image © Lois Dodd, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York)

Dodd reduces the natural world to bold colors, flat planes, and unconcealed brushwork. Some are decidedly abstract, like “Garden Corner,” which reads like a jigsaw puzzle’s funky, vibrant shapes. In “Dooryard View” (2010), on the other hand, the scene is a summery landscape, all verdant greenery and blue sky.

To see these paintings is to breathe in fresh air.

Lois Dodd, "Barn Window–Blue Sky" (2011) (image © Lois Dodd, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York)

Dodd uses windows as a formal device in several of her paintings. Many of these paintings veer toward pure abstraction. In “Barn Window–Blue Sky,” a crisp blue square is set against a field of burnt sienna. A thin veil of washy ochre, punctuated by a bright pink orb, makes up “Pink Geranium + Window Lock + Ochre Tree.” However, it’s the straightforward depiction of the window lock brings that brings this painting back into the real world. Dodd’s ability to balance abstraction and realism borders on genius.

Lois Dodd, "Pink Geranium + Window Lock + Ochre Tree" (2011) (via © Lois Dodd, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York)

What I find so appealing about her work is that she makes painting look effortless. Her pictures are simple, direct, and airy, unencumbered by detail and academic stuffiness. The viewer’s eye is free to roam like a child.

Lois Dodd’s New Panel Paintings continues until February 18 at Alexandre Gallery (Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, 13th Floor, Midtown, Manhattan). 

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