Sue Scott Gallery

Art Show

Maura Egan
Elle Decor, May 2010

Suzanne McClelland

By embedding provocative words and phrases within her gestural brushstrokes, this Brooklyn-based painter is reenergizing abstraction.

"The only thing I have avoided my entire career is the human figure," says Suzanne McClelland.  "It has been reproduced for centuries."  Thumbing her nose at art-world pieties over the past 25 years, the Brooklyn-based painter has eschewed depictions of the body in favor of something far more abstract—figures of speech.

McClelland tucks letters and idioms into canvases full of forceful lines, curves, and slashes that recall the macho brushstrokes of Cy Twombly, Julian Schnabel, and Anselm Kiefer.  She also references the work of their female counterparts, among them Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, who convey politically charged concepts by using elements of graphic design and advertising.  "I wanted to marry masculine ways of painting with feminist messages," McClelland explains.

Like Holzer and Kruger, McClelland often incorporates hot-button language into her images.  Words such as bombshell and vamp ("vocabulary typically used to descibe women," she points out) swirl into arabesques that resemble a coquettish dance; others, including Enough Enough, pile up like building blocks, graffiti style.

"Suzanne supports, draws out, and sometimes confuses written text," notes Kate McNamara, who curated a 2007 exhibition featuring McClelland at the Hessel Museum of Art at New York's Bard College.  For Sigh, a 2008 piece, she scribbled a red line that vaguely suggests the title—there is a ghostly trace of a g and an h—before it turns into a ragged rectangle evoking a set of lungs letting out a long breath.  "I'm interested in the sounds and tones of phrases and how that plays out on the canvas," says McClelland, who has recently enjoyed a mini-revival with a show at Manhattan's Sue Scott Gallery last year and her current exhibition at Galerie Andres Thalmann in Zurich.  "Exploring this lets each painting have its own energy."