Painting on a Knife’s Edge

Patricia Satterlee, “atomic 05” (2019), Flashe on board, 14.25 x 10 inches (all pictures through

Patricia Satterlee | ATOMIC, the brand new exhibition at Frosch&Portmann on the Decrease East Facet, is the painter’s first solo outing in Manhattan since an set up on the Kitchen in 1996.

I’ve written about two of Satterlee’s prior exhibitions, a 2014 three-artist show at Valentine in Ridgewood, Queens, the place she shared the area with the sculptors David Henderson and Jude Tallichet, and Already Gone, a 2017 solo on the Martin Art Gallery of Muhlenberg School in Allentown, Pennsylvania, which was later featured at Gold/scopophilia in Montclair, New Jersey.

In comparison with the symphonic dimensions of her larger-scaled sequence, specifically the five- and six-foot-tall work of Already Gone, the 17 works comprising ATOMIC (which measure 14.25 by 10 inches and 12.5 by 11.75 inches) make up a form of chamber suite, however with no much less rigor, invention, or breadth of ambition.

Patricia Satterlee, “atomic 03” (2019), Flashe on board, 14.25 x 10 inches

The central motif is a wing-like form linked through a slender conduit, or neck, to a bigger, blunter kind that might be learn as a mountain or a torso. In each image, this configuration is remoted, like a cutout, in opposition to a milky, monochromatic, greenish-gray discipline. Inside these constraints, absolutely anything can occur.

Satterlee has been portray solely with the water-soluble, vinyl-based medium Flashe for years, attaining an unmatched mastery over its matte surfaces, lush textures, and densely pigmented pentimenti. Typically she works up a picture over the course of the day solely to clean it off at evening, leaving ghostly shapes and tattered ribbons of shade behind. The following day she begins once more, riffing and altering till one thing recent emerges.

It is usually value mentioning that Satterlee’s sequence are all distinctly completely different from one another regardless of some constant household traits: painted traces; flat planes; simplified shapes; mottled, jewel-like colours. The ATOMIC work’ character is marked by the prominence given to the eroded layers of shade, which performed secondary roles in earlier sequence (filling minor shapes or surrounding fields), however right here saturate the vast majority of the motifs.

Patricia Satterlee, “atomic 08” (2019), Flashe on board, 14.25 x 10 inches

The suite consists of three sections, or actions, individuated predominantly by means of shade: the acid-raked reds, greens, blacks, and ochers of “atomic 01” to “atomic 04” (all works are dated 2019, titled in lowercase and numbered), adopted by the liquid blue swipes and mossy stains of numbers 05 to 09, and the verdant greens that unfold throughout 10 although 17, forcing out lingering remnants of contrasting hues.

The pigments of the third motion really feel thicker and drier, extra landscape-like, and the configurations of shapes change into far more assorted, as if the deeper the artist ventured into the sequence, the extra multifarious her imaginative and prescient turned.

Whereas I’ve described one of many sequence’ central components as resembling a wing (which is typically doubled), it additionally mimics a volcanic eruption or, apropos the title, a stylized mushroom cloud. This latter reference vibrates with resonances each peculiar and dire — a once-and-future existential risk embodying the absurdity of world calamity — absurd as a result of it’s human-made, preventable, and, with out fixed vigilance, inevitable.

Patricia Satterlee, “atomic 09” (2019), Flashe on board, 14.25 x 10 inches

It’s at all times problematic to extract extra-visual meanings from summary artwork, and it’s particularly so with Satterlee’s basically intuitive and improvisational work. But it may also be argued that the gut-level response demanded by her shapes, colours, and textures opens the door, by means of feeling alone, to a number of interpretations that talk to our second, with none one affiliation overwhelming the remainder.

The three discrete elements that make up ATOMIC may be learn — once more like actions in music — as an emotional journey of battle and determination, one which embraces the duality of “atomic,” the final word destroyer and life-giver.

The primary motion is probably the most dissonant, with greens, ochers, and bloody reds clanging in opposition to one another as chain-link patterns emerge from soot-black fissures, evoking information pictures of Guantanamo Bay and kids in cages on the border.

Patricia Satterlee, “atomic 15” (2019), Flashe on linen, 12.5 x 11.75 inches

The second part is probably much more disquieting, regardless of the sublimity of its colours; scarred with biomorphic types evocative of sandstone fossils (a chain-link fence makes an look as nicely), it might be learn as intimating the ecological collapse of the ocean, a view made extra convincing by “atomic 07,” with its proper aspect seeming to dissipate or petrify, adopted by “atomic 08,” moss-streaked, devoid of blue, and bone-dry.

However in “atomic 08,” one other transformation additionally takes place: the faintly delineated fossils of the previous pictures are abruptly offered as absolutely drawn organisms, which migrate into “atomic 09” and metamorphose into spores floating amid atmospheric swaths of delicate greens and sundown rusts. The tough scarification of the floor is gone, and a sensation of deliverance suffuses the picture.

This sense of liberation continues into the third group, the place stippled patches of crimson, ocher, blue, grey, and ivory give technique to earthy greens, a development that attains a way of decision in “atomic 15” — a flat, forest-green airplane adorned with a meandering yellow-green line — earlier than 16 and 17 usher in new types of complexity. Furthermore, the shapes themselves mutate and warp, with the mushroom cloud cleaved in half in some, and increasing, mountain-like, in others.

Patricia Satterlee, “atomic 17” (2019), Flashe on linen, 12.5 x 11.75 inches

Within the part’s first two panels, “atomic 10” and “atomic 11,” a further form seems within the monochrome sky, unsettling the composition in 10 however stabilizing it in 11. This small variation underscores Satterlee’s willingness to desert beforehand set phrases of engagement, and give up to the liberty of her creativeness.

With its disciplined inclusiveness, Satterlee’s apply performs throughout the realm of “each/and” reasonably than “both/or” — an intellectually targeted, materials-based abstraction rooted in remark, emotion, and expertise — wherein her pictures obtain a sense a rightness that transcends closed techniques and linear logic.

The exquisitely ravaged expanses of ATOMIC may be obtained as greater than a warning siren, however as a metaphor of the irreparable harm already carried out. They place us on a knife’s edge, but it’s exhilarating to be there. The formal dynamics of the pictures, embedded within the mutating colours, shapes, and textures, pitch us back and forth between painterly apparitions of heaven and hell, till the ultimate motion, a topography in inexperienced, pulls us again to earth, the place we must discover a means out.

Patricia Satterlee | ATOMIC continues at Frosch&Portmann (53 Stanton Road, Decrease East Facet, Manhattan) by means of January 12, 2020.

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