Although Joanne Freeman’s paintings are austere in their means, they nevertheless communicate with vivid clarity. In her recent work, a richness of color, specificity of light, and a languid sense of movement arise naturally from the painting process. As noted by curator George Kinghorn, in his introduction to Freeman's current exhibition Three Chords, the “forms that inhabit these canvases (several of which are elegantly shaped) create dynamic interactions—the hard-edged thickened lines quiver, rotate, stretch and sag.” Freeman and I recently discussed her new work via email. -- Brett Baker
Painters' Table (PT): Looking at your recent paintings, I'm struck by both the reductive formal language in the work and how that language refuses to remain self-referential. The paintings seem to immediately point outside of themselves, if not to specific things, then towards familiar spatial experiences and physical forces. Are these qualities byproducts of the painting process or are you responding to specific visual input, either directly or from memory?
Joanne Freeman (JF): The reductive formal language is my structure. By creating boundaries and limiting choices, I'm able to amplify whatever qualities are represented. I assign a lot of importance to visceral responses and am less interested in content and literal analyzation. I am wary of consciously using too much self-referential language as it seems to show up anyhow, often uninvited, in the studio practice. I'm pretty aware, when I paint, of the historical precedents I'm referencing and the language of modernism, in both two and three dimensional form. I go back and forth borrowing and riffing on it. Specifically, though, a large influence on the language of the recent paintings was inspired by a trip to Otranto, Italy that I took during a residency with the Bau Institute. I was blown away by the shadows and light on the white facades of the buildings. Isolated colors against this backdrop became incredibly intense. The less-is-more quality became really apparent, and I became obsessed with the variations of white and the positioning of color against it.
Joanne Freeman, Studio View (courtesy of the artist)
PT: The specificity of Adriatic light where the darkness of shadows turns to color is certainly evoked in the work, as is the languid movement of shadows in heated air. I think that's when painting gets really interesting, when the language you develop in the studio draws you to a natural equivalent expression. The work itself allows you to see more intensely.
Mario Naves posts his catalogue essay for the exhibition Wit, curated by Joanne Freeman, at The Painting Center, New York through February 23, 2013. The exhibition features works by Marina Adams, Polly Apfelbaum, Joanne Freeman, Joe Fyfe, Barbara Gallucci, Phillis Ideal, Jonathan Lasker, Sarah Lutz, Doreen McCarthy, Mario Naves, Thomas Nozkowski, Paul Pagk, Ruth Root, Fran Shalom, and Stephen Westfall.
Naves writes: "Eschewing the purity that was once abstraction’s sine qua non, the artists featured in Wit opt for an almost promiscuous inclusivity. No inspiration is suspect. High-flown ambitions–sure, we got ‘em; historical cognizance, too. But these artists are also characterized by a willingness to embrace a veritable laundry list of references: nature, narrative, comics, design, technology, science, representation and, not least, humor. Not that humor has been entirely absent from the history of abstract art: Malevich pranked Mona Lisa five years before Duchamp and Mondrian paid winning homage, in oil and canvas, to his beloved boogie-woogie music. Still, abstraction nowadays is more and more a repository of quirks, tics and pictorial double entendres, having as much in common with Buster Keaton, say, as Neo-Plasticism."
Artist Steven Alexander provides a look at PAPER 2011 on view through February 13, 2011 at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in Brooklyn. Consisting entirely of mall works on paper, the show, Alexander writes, "offers one rich and intimate experience after another."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.