Sue Scott Gallery

Suzanne McCllelland included in "Affinities:
Painting in Abstraction" at Rhode Island School of Design

16 September 2009, 6:00–8:00 PM, Memorial Hall Painting Department Gallery, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

Affinities: Painting in Abstraction

curated by Kate M. McNamara


Jacqueline Humphries, Jutta Koether, Suzanne McClelland, Rebecca Morris, Carrie Moyer, Dona Nelson, Amy Sillman, and Laurel Sparks


Memorial Hall Painting Department Gallery

Rhode Island School of Design

September 16 - October 21, 2009


Eight different aesthetics are on view with the ten paintings by the eight artists of Affinities: Painting in Abstraction. Each artist investigates, challenges, appropriates, and extends critical aspects of materiality, process, abstraction, and pictorial idea. While they differ in approaches to structure, material, methodology, concept, and visible process, each work draws attention to technique and pushes conventions of medium through an active investigation of various languages of abstraction. It is these shared inquiries and material investments that initiate this exhibition. The work in Affinities: Painting in Abstraction create a charged space where these relevant discourses can be considered, without being imposed, and petitions the viewer to deliberate on her own assumptions about painting as a material, a vocabulary, a genre, a pluralistic history, and critical tool.

 The fingers of the long, orange, outline of the arm that emerges into the left side of Amy Sillman’s Untitled, 2006, hold onto and support the weight of a gray gesture, which in turn is drawn back into the other side of the female figure identifiable by a sharply drawn line suggesting a breast and textured hair. Using a full and aggressive palette, Sillman’s figures and shapes are built within intricate compositions of light, structure, drawing, and mark making. Narrative is engaged in figural references, but never dominant. Sillman is a New York-based painter.

 Rapa Nui Smashup, 2009 by painter Carrie Moyer, suggests early feminist painting genres of goddess and central core imagery, with lucidly layered applications of paint. The shapely porcelain vessel-like shape of Rapa Nui Smashup contrasts with the deep purple background it is centered on. Coated with a selection of acrylic colors, the female form is insinuated through a dynamic graphic and fluid abstract language. Moyer is a New York-based painter.

Silver paint is a dominant force in both compositions by Jacqueline Humphries. Scribbled lines, drips, pours, and sheets of color interrogate and pull out the surface boundaries of both untitled, 2008 canvases. These diverse marking methods enable a sense of depth by exposing prior paint applications that can be glimpsed between layers of silver, purple and black. Humphries is a New York-based painter.

Stains of color have been dripped, splashed, and spread on Dona Nelson’s Oh Pal, 2008. Cheesecloth has been coated and pulled around the surface of the canvas. These processes appear, at times, more about the action than an overall outcome. Oh Pal prompts the viewer to consider Nelson’s methods of production. Nelson is a New York and Philadelphia-based painter.

The expressive brushwork and symmetry of shape in of Rebecca Morris’ painting Untitled (#07-06), 2006 respond to and refute familiar ideas of what abstract painting looks like. Using a combination of spray paint and oil, as well as methods of repetition, Morris applies painted lines and shapes, which create multiple points of contrast and tension throughout the composition. Morris is a Los Angeles-based painter.

The positioning of Jutta Koether’s collaged square canvas calls the viewer’s attention to the objects embedded within the liquid glass coating, which drips off of the support of the canvas. By acknowledging the exhibition space as a site of production, Koether addresses the viewer’s space in the work. Cinetract, 2007 is part of an ongoing series of works called the structural necessity of multiple inconsistent fantasies. Jutta Koether is a New York-based painter, musician, and critic whose work complicates and crosses disciplines. 

Laurel Sparks’ use of diverse materials, translate as seductive and mutant in Archangel, 2008. Embellishments of glitter, paper mache, feathers, marble dust, in combination with collected and patterned drips of acrylic paint emphasize this tension of the alluring and grotesque. The painting confuses and obfuscates background and foreground, which produces the effect of internal and external surfaces. This cultivated and decadent corporal composition suggests bones, skin, and organic, material decay. Laurel Sparks is a Boston-based painter.  

Suzanne McClelland’s use of language in Smudge and Stroke, both 2009, present a complex visual relationship between image and speech. The words smudge and stroke are insinuated by the way paint has been applied, as well as the literal and elongated script on the canvas, which connect the visual actions attended to with each paint drip. Suzanne McClelland is a New York-based painter.  

While the exhibition title’s term affinities suggests a multiplicity in ideas of connection, it is not used as a term to point out or make relevant specific social relationships between the artists; though in many cases the artists are familiar with one another. Interpretations of the term affinity also point to the fact of gender within the exhibition. Though each of the artists in the exhibition are women, which is not coincidental, they’re identity as women does not make any claim on the production or reception of their work, though for some of the artists gender is of consequence within their practice. The fact that the artists of Affinities: Painting in Abstraction are all women stems from my wanting to recognize visual relationships between works that I found undeniably engaged with one another.


— Kate McNamara



Kate McNamara is the Curatorial Assistant at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and is a co-founder of Cleopatra's, a Brooklyn-based project space. She received her MA from The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York and her BA at Hampshire College. A large-scale group exhibition co-curated by Kate and Tim Goessens entitled Between Spaces opens at PS1 on Oct. 25, 2009.