In these two dozen artist’s proof prints, on view at ZONE:chelsea March 13 – April 24, 2004, Pat Steir explores a signature motif, the waterfall that provides a central dynamic element in landscape. Here highly personal development of this theme places her in an art historical continuum that includes Romanticism and Abstract Expressionism, while resonating with the millennia-long tradition of Asian art. She goes beyond reference to nature as a subject and locus for negotiations between abstraction and representation to engage the idea of artmaking as process.
The act of creation is a performance, and the work perpetuates the gestural immediacy of the artist’s hand. In a series of celebrated paintings, Steir emphasized the liquid nature of the medium, imitation the process with a sudden brush and swiping to channel the flow of released paint as it dripped down the canvas.
Steir’s work as a printmaker displays the same intuitive sensitivity to the way mediums behave. The spit bite aquatints in this exhibition, executed at the Crown Point Press, testify to the primordial power of the artist’s hand, vividly illustrating one of Steir’s key beliefs: “the one mark is for me a symbol. The straight line is the symbol of drawing, all drawing and painting, because it is all just a matter of how the lines are arranged.”
The way the lines are arranged in the print series Long Vertical Falls conveys, paradoxically, both vertigo and meditative equilibrium. Extending the legacy of the Abstract Expressionist drip-and-splatter aesthetic, these compositions also evoke the scroll paintings of Asian art. Steir’s centrally placed motif, running the height of the images, suggests a dramatic sense of scale – even grandeur – in a relatively intimate space. There are no mountains, bridges or diminutive scholars depicted; the act of contemplating nature has been re-positioned outside the picture frame. The movement of the artist’s hand, working both with and against the force of gravity, is central to Steir’s idiom. Roughly parallel lines coalesce into a recognizable natural form, yet with their wayward vitality they retain the artist’s mark and celebrate the physicality of the materials she uses.
PAT STEIR: Works on paper
March 13 – April 24, 2004
6-8PM, March 12, 2004