Greene Naftali is pleased to announce the group exhibition Suncrush, featuring new and historic works by artists that variously bind or decouple color from material form. Indeed, many of the artists assembled here wield color as base material—as an agent not only of optical experience but of haptic, lived reality. Vibrant hues become structuring elements, formal problems on which to build. Working across media in painting, sculpture, ceramics, and film, they use a spectrum of color techniques to evoke both raw sensation and cultural ties, seizing on the personal and shared associations that a given shade might hold. Suncrush takes its name from a particularly vivid 1976 painting by Frank Bowling, in which color is used as a conduit for meaning but avoids symbolic formulas, appealing instead to a more visceral psychology. In each of these works, color (or its strategic absence) strikes at a bodily level, freed up to say the unsayable—stoking desire that, as Roland Barthes once remarked, “makes the entire motionless chart of language vibrate.”
Bowling uses abstraction to mine the emotive qualities of color. His technically pioneering paintings meld avant-garde and vernacular techniques, from cascades of poured paint to the use of stencils or supports stitched from scraps of canvas. Discs of pigment form Justin Caguiat’s dense grounds of patterned color, which accrue here—mosaic-like—from rounds of grass-green and metallic gold. Wafers and orbs similarly structure the glazed stoneware of German ceramicist Beate Kuhn, and tiny inscribed dots fill the warp and weft of Howardena Pindell’s handmade paper. Rachel Harrison’s sculpture Sun Squad combines jewel-toned purples and shades of bronze with searing brights, titled after the brand of Hula-Hoops that dangle from its surface—each a circle of found colors. The swirling brushwork of Walter Price’s near- monochrome Fanta has all the fizz and froth of its namesake cola, and color strides through his mural-scaled Forward March, in paint-covered footprints that log the artist’s motion, pace, and progress.
There’s an untrammeled optimism in Rachel Eulena Williams’s ruptures of the picture plane. Her canvases are layered with cord and swathes of fabric and perforated from beneath, revealing stretcher bars that become new surfaces to douse with color. A more occult, feverish color sense suffuses the films of Kenneth Anger, through torrents of images montaged into heady, cross-cut flows. The voiding or removal of color can also be as potent as its application, and several of the works on view engage in this type of chromatic withholding. Harrison’s BW Sunset adds a further layer of mediation to the artist’s rephotographed prints of a found image, draining the (already banal) “original” of anything resembling natural hues. And Jana Euler’s black-and-white diptych of a camera and washing machine joins the two panels with a length of textile, likening the lens of an imaging tool to a domestic appliance’s round glass portal. Color is present but also secreted beneath this protruding element, as the “laundry” that tumbles in the washing machine is embedded in the canvas yet blocked from view. Her depictions of electronics and the outlets that power them are deadpan riffs on the mechanics of painting—and the extent to which our devices have become extensions of ourselves.
Jutting from the wall in more ominous fashion are the Lynch Fragments of Melvin Edwards, an ongoing series begun in the 1960s made from scraps of welded steel. Incorporating found objects—nails, chains, padlocks, saw blades—both benign and menacing in tone, these compact reliefs entwine histories of labor and racial violence. Jean-Luc Moulène embeds his sculptural objects with a sense of material contradiction, here forcing a coil of steel inside a torqued globe of handblown glass. Simone Fattal makes sculptures as rooted to the earth as Moulène’s are levitational, forging totemic figures in bronze that exude a timeless solidity. Her standing Warriors evoke both mythical heroes and more contemporary conflict, with an unyielding, human presence that bridges cultures and spans millennia.