Local Color: Rosy Keyser at Peter Blum Gallery
New American Paintings
March 1, 2013
Take that old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and quintuple it, then dive into Rosy Keyser’s latest solo Medusa Pie Country, the inaugural exhibition at Peter Blum Gallery‘s new midtown location. Keyser’s canvases are open books, flayed, stained, and/or augmented compositions imbued with visual narrative and reinventions of painting itself.
A perpetually flowing vein in Keyser’s style challenges the creative (as in creation) aspects of painting while maintaining a tenuous dialogue between completion and destruction. I felt this distinctly at her 2011 solo at the gallery’s former Chelsea space, Promethean Dub, which underlined her alchemy of abstraction tropes by balancing house paint and enamel with rope and metal. In these new works, however, her choice of detritus selected from the namesake upstate New York hamlet where she splits her time is particularly potent in retaining a tight dialogue in Medusa Pie Country. Consider Hungry Shepherd, Honeypot, a diptych asserting across an entire gallery wall. The left side eschews canvas for portions of corrugated steel, attacked here and there by strikes of white spray paint and black enamel. The right portion retains canvas, covered in grand gestural brushwork, but features a mangled polycarbonate sheet on top, its rippling transparence punctured by tree branches and its tactility echoing the steel’s wave. At the base of Hungry Shepherd, Keyser has twisted up the steel to carry a length of thick rope. The diptych takes ‘Abstract Expressionism’ and adds ‘Mother Nature’s wrath’ to the equation, like the foreign objects here were flotsam from Hurricane Sandy that washed up in Brooklyn, Keyser’s second home.
Not all the works from Keyser’s Medusa series so vividly evoke disaster. Hitching Post for a Leopard Appaloosa one-ups its charming title with unique compositional elements. Several sections of painted ash stilts act as framing devices across pieces of raw linen affixed to a door-sized birch panel, all utilitarian media recalling horse breeders at the foothills of the Adirondacks, north of Medusa. Plus, the stilts’ white impressions across black enamel-soaked and bare linen echo both the appaloosa’s pelt and energetic equine motion. Keyser preserves the majority of Ice Fishing‘s bare canvas, sans semicircular bluish-black stains and white spatters here and there, like cracks in the frozen surface. Textured jute erupting from a torn gash in the canvas’ base feels more like a pocket of warmth from the elements than an intentional abrasion.
I suggest Mantis Seer as a reference point for the entire exhibition, for despite the grandiosity and undeniable gravity contained within the two-panel beast Hungry Shepherd, Honeypot, it is Mantis Seer‘s apparent traditional structure that ties it back to Keyser’s previous works while still emphasizing her localized material explorations. Look at this gestural canvas from a distance, until the sawdust-coated surface coalesces into textural noise and the diagonal black striations lock into a barn floor template. It is nearly the largest single-panel work here, but by ‘skewing’ the composition a bit Keyser mellows any action-painting fury, returning the visual allure back to place. The zigzagging surface rip references the titular mountain bike that may be responsible for it. The graffiti-like R.K. oriented sideways in the lower left is like lovers’ initials gouged in wood, supersized to AbEx proportions. Mantis Seer feels ‘lived in’, a common element in these works that tempers even Hungry Shepherd, Honeypot‘s might. This is an important distinction in Keyser’s work, for despite their ostensible abstraction, they never distance themselves from home.
—Rosy Keyser / Medusa Pie Country / Peter Blum Gallery (opens Feb 28, through April 20)
Rosy Keyser was born 1974 in Baltimore, MD and lives and works in Brooklyn and Medusa, New York. Keyser received her BFA from Cornell University and her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been included in the following group shows: Immaterial at Ballroom Marfa, Texas, curated by Fairfax Dorn (2011); A Painting Show at Harris Lieberman Gallery, New York, NY (2011); I Can’t Forget, But I Don’t Remember What at Freymond Guth Fine Art, Zurich, Switzerland (2010); Spray at D’Amelio Terras , New York, NY (2010); Hi, Low and In Between at Grimm Fine Art, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2009); New Work at Reynolds Gallery, Richmond, VA (2009); Sack of Bones at Peres Projects, Los Angeles, CA (2008); Zero Zone at Tracy Williams Ltd., New York (2008); and Stubborn Materials at Peter Blum Chelsea, New York (2007). Her work is included in permanent collections such as The Louisiana Museum, Denmark, and the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Medusa Pie Country continues through April 20.
Brian Fee, Austin contributor