Saturday, January 13, 2018

Beyond Black and White @ Westbeth Gallery

In a natural world that is resplendent with color, why do so many artists produce extensive bodies of work limited to a palette of black and white? And why does this work exert such a powerful hold on our gaze?

Over the past year, there have been many exhibits focused on black and white paintings and works on paper. A brief list includes a current exhibition at The National Gallery in London, Monochrome: Painting in Black and White (both abstraction and figurative work from Rembrandt to Richter); a 2017 exhibit at The Tampa Museum of Art titled Alex Katz: Black and White; and an exhibit of exquisite black and white drawings and paintings by Dozier Bell at Danese Corey in New York. I recently posted about a 2017 exhibit at the Curator Gallery in New York, Almost Black and White.
Cris Gianakos (left) and Sharon Brant (right)

2018 begins with yet another exhibit devoted to painting in black and white, Beyond Black and White at Westbeth Gallery in NY.  This is a large group exhibit of black and white abstraction by 38 artists. It includes work that demonstrates a variety of preoccupations  --  paintings that are seductively austere, others that are intricately patterned, and still other paintings that focus on materiality. Curated by Li Trincere and Henry Brown, the exhibit offers a glimpse of the richness that is possible within the parameters of working in black and white. 

Michael Scott

Ken Wade

As I've written previously on this blog  (Almost Black and White, Painting in Black and White), rather than being restrictive, working with black and white can open up a world rich with possibilities for visual artists. Although the phrase 'black and white' sounds direct and clear, there is nothing simple about the decision to work in black and white.

Black isn't merely black, and white isn't just white -- either hue can be cool or warm, flat or expansive. The painted surface may be matte, reflective, chalky, silky smooth or coarsely pitted. For some of these artists, working with black and white will also mean exploring the vast arena of grays. Without the inevitable and often unwanted associations that accompany a more expansive palette, a painter is free to concentrate more fully on preoccupations with form and geometry, pattern and surface. 

This post includes a selection of the 38 paintings on exhibit. The show is up through January 27th at Westbeth Gallery, 55 Bethune Street, New York.  

Ivo Ringe

Karen Schifano

Kim Uchiyama

Mark Williams

Douglas Witmer

Lisa Beck

David Rhodes (left) and Li Trincere (right)

David Seccombe (left), Joan Witek (center), and Jean Wolff (right)

Dan Walsh

Patricia Zarate

Rene Pierre Allain (left) and Henry Brown (right)

Laura Duerwald (left) and Gelah Penn (right)

Melissa Kretschmer