The Jeffrey Leder Gallery has reopened in Long Island City in a charming two-story brownstone building on a tree-lined street close to the Sculpture Center and PS1. The space is a nice alternative to the white cubes of Chelsea and combines a bit of the DIY sensibility of some of the apartment galleries of Brooklyn or the East Village with the more high-end spaces on the Upper East Side. The current, their third, exhibition utilizes both floors with the work of two strong painters who complement one another; Charles Marburg’s abstractions on the parlor floor and Violet Baxter’s representational work on the top floor.
Marburg’s neat little abstractions favor eccentricity over grandiosity, depicting figure/ground fields that either stay put, stacked in small solidly brushed complexes of activity, or awash drifting by, images appearing and disappearing through gauzy skins of paint. In either case, Marburg makes good use of cropping; much of the incident in the paintings emerge through the portals of surrounding shapes often bisected or colliding; one sees the incised lines of simple shapes, frequently a bulbous cloud or asterisk seemingly applied as a stencil painted into or around its edges.
At first glance Marburg’s paintings seem a throwback to the early 20th C. American abstraction of Milton Avery or Arthur Dove. They have a similar subdued palette and scumbled touch but the closer one looks, the figuration that emerges seems to be derived less from landscape and more from objects close at hand, biology and flora and fauna. Several of the paintings, all oil on wood panel, have the appearance of fresco; a dry coarse ground enlivened by sponged, impastoed or liquid veils of pigment abutting one another. Marburg captures the sheer joie de vivre through painting one finds in Howard Hodgkin.
Violet Baxter’s cityscape paintings, collectively titled Overview, takes their name from the high perched views out her studio windows in both Union Square and Long Island City. Baxter paints the crowds at the green market, the comings and goings of people and vehicles and most often, the highway overpasses and commercial buildings — the landmark Pepsi and SilverCup Studio signs are recurring motifs in her oils, pastels and watercolors. Baxter’s take on the gritty beauty and majesty of industrial buildings and highways is decidely different from fellow painter’s Rackstraw Downes and Yvonne Jacquette who mine similar territory
Oddly, Baxter’s high key palette and ability to create abstract tapestries from recognizable sources shares a sensibility with the Nabis albeit looking in the opposite direction from their intimate interiors. Baxter overlays complementary colors building to convincing depictions of light on surface whether it is the hot pinks and yellows of noonday sun hitting a building or the electric blues of night sky; her crowd scenes capture the same evocation of memory and movement one finds in Matthew Radford or David Kapp. Tucked away on a side wall, one can’t help but see an homage to Bonnard in a small self-portrait of contrasting orange and cerulean blue.
Violet Baxter and Charles Marburg continue at Jeffrey Leder Gallery (2137 45th Road, Long Island City, Queens) through March 11.