In her first exhibition in Atlanta, Nancy Baker introduces ’21 Gun Salute’, a new series of works in gouache, collage and glitter on paper casting a humorous and critical eye on our current paranoia and obsession with weapons.
The Raleigh, North Carolina based Baker was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. She has received numerous awards and fellowships and has exhibited extensively in institutions and galleries across the U.S. as well as in Copenhagen and Jerusalem for the past twenty years. Nancy is a team member on the blog Anonymous Female Artist under the moniker Rebel Belle. Rebel Belle is a pertinent descriptive of Baker as an artist living in the south and expressing her concerns and philosophies in work that takes on the follies and fears of modern life. The artist states her goal “is to maintain humility and a keen sense of the absurd, despite living on a planet that is becoming increasingly humorless, jejune and fanatical.”
Nancy Baker is well known for her elaborate allegorical paintings impeccably executed with an iconography including characters from medieval scenes, illuminated manuscripts, cartoons and pop art. Through a combination of high art and kitsch she has prodded with a keen wit at the foibles of our culture. Recently Baker has employed new materials in the service of exposing these inequities with a wealth of visual stimulation. As Baker’s sense of humor is ever present it is not surprising that glitter has found it’s way into the vocabulary and is married with gouache and collage on paper. A series featuring hand grenades and guns decorated sumptuously with flowers , rich colors, jewels and glitter follows a series of works incorporating an ironic twisting of the names of corporate and consumer brands, such as Tiffany’s (Epiphany) and Hershey’s (Heresies).
The evocative mysterious paintings of children and young adults by New Orleans artist Mark Bercier comprise his first exhibition with Marcia Wood Gallery. The artist exquisitely captures the fleeting innocence of youth in large scale portraits full of love and yearning.
Mark Bercier was born in southern Louisiana and moved to New Orleans twenty five years ago. He credits that move with having a profound effect on his life and artwork. Until that time his artwork was tragic, dark and serious. The color, vigor, sensations and life of New Orleans inspired a creative and spiritual shift that is the essence of the now sixty one year old artist and his artwork. Mark Bercier is well known for his faux-naive painting series called Baby, in which he deploys the iconography known as the Healin’ Symbols. The cartoon-like figure of a roughly drawn little girl with bows in her hair became the character Baby after a self-portrait that the artist’s daughter did when she was five years old. Bercier explains that Baby is a symbol of innocence and hope, as well as of growth and becoming. The paintings are bright and fun and deceptively poignant. In the twenty-six hieroglyphic-like juxtapositions of a word and a non-related image that comprise the Healin’ Symbols, there is a second drawing of Baby in profile. This symbol stands for the word “Wonder”. In the artist’s words, “The theme of wonder is about trying to hold onto that thing, the wonder of everything and why we’re here.”
The upcoming exhibition, “Youth Portraits” represent a return and a conflation in Bercier’s work. Early in his career Bercier painted portraits but stopped thirty years ago when he began the Healin’ Symbols. Two years ago he was asked to paint a portrait commission of a clients young daughter and that has lead to many more commissions and the ongoing work to be exhibited. Frequently the Healin’ Symbols are in the background, as signifiers of the inner child in an exploration of the mysteries of life and creation. The portrait paintings are gouache on paper in large scale – 4 x 5 feet or larger. The intense color, naive quality and sheer exuberance of the portraits could run the risk of being simply sweet images. On the contrary, Bercier captures with breathtaking perception the joy and tragedy of childhood. He describes this body of work as acknowledging “children at that difficult period of their lives when they become young adults and the freedom of childhood will never be theirs again. Our children’s transition to young adulthood is hard and inevitable for all of us.” An avowed fan of the great American artist Alice Neel, Bercier is also deeply knowledgeable of the history of art and cites other artists he admires as significant figurative painters of the complexities of human experience including Frank Auerbach, Georg Baselitz and Donald Baechler.
Mark Bercier received a BA from the Texas Academy of Art, Houston Texas, and has studied as well in Austria and Belgium. His work has been shown in over eighty exhibitions across the U.S. since 1974 and is in the collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Odgen Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, the University of Iowa Museum, Iowa City, the University Art Museum, Lafayette, LA, and the House of Blues Collection, Boston, MA. Private collections include Dick Cavett, Alanis Morissette, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, Claudia Schiffer and James Taylor among many others.
Joanne Mattera returns with her fourth solo exhibition at Marcia Wood Gallery and her twenty-sixth career solo exhibition. Mattera will present a new series of work that she terms chromatic geometries. The series title, “Diamond Life” refers to the geometric shapes of some of the actual paintings, the diamond pattern on others and the diamond like quality achieved when light hits the diagonal grain of the surface, causing color to become deep and luminous.
A breakthrough moment in the summer of 2010 was the genesis of Joanne Mattera’s new series of paintings and works on paper entitled “Diamond Life”. The artist has identified geometric order, along with color, as the two main concerns that have engaged her throughout her practice. Repeated pattern elements within a grid define the structure of the composition within which layers of saturated color are applied to create optical depth and surface tactility. Mattera has called her work “lush minimalism” in a tongue and cheek reference to the dichotomy of the two terms and the happy co-existence of both concepts in her work. As one writer observes ” “Minimalist artists used the grid to downplay the sensuality of color and brushstrokes. The austerity helped focus the viewer’s attention on pigment as pigment, line as line—a primary concern of 60’s minimalism. Joanne Mattera has a different agenda. She uses grids the way classical poets used rigorous rhyme schemes: to impose elegant order onto an otherwise messy outpouring of emotion.” — Staff review, The Week (New York City), 2003.
In the new work the grid has been turned on it’s point to reassert itself as a diamond shape and marks a turning point in the artist’s practice. As one of six artists to participate in the publication of “Pull”, a portfolio published by Marcia Wood Gallery in June 2010, Mattera created the print “Soie”. Based on an ongoing series of paintings of layers of translucent encaustic called “Silk Road”, the print image is a square of glowing emerald green, created by printing two identical square plates at opposite angles – thus alternating the vertical and horizontal layers of brush strokes to create a subtle grid, like a weave, or piece of silk. At the moment of deciding whether to orient the square image on the paper vertically or horizontally, the studio director, studying the right angle positioning, reached out and made a slight turn with his hand, and looked at Mattera with raised eyebrows. The print was placed on the paper as a diamond and upon return to her studio the artist created a series of diamond-shaped grids in gouache on paper, then went on to create a series of small square paintings in encaustic on panel that are positioned on the wall in the same 45-degree orientation. Mattera states that she thinks of the Diamond Life paintings as chromatic geometries rather than color fields. As ever, whether gouache on paper or encaustic on panel, Mattera’s works are luminous meditations on geometry, light and color with a sensual tangibility.
Joanne Mattera earned a BFA in Painting from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, and an MA in Visual Arts from Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont. She has been painting for 30 years, exhibiting regularly throughout the United States. She is the author of The Art of Encaustic Painting; Contemporary Expression in an Ancient Medium, which has become the standard reference on the subject. Her work is in the collections of The Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ, Connecticut College, Print Collection, New London, CT, University Libraries Collection, State University of New York at Albany, U.S. Embassies, Slovenia and Poland, and the Consulate of Brunei, among others. Her extensive bibliography includes approximately one-hundred books, periodicals, catalogs, essays and online reviews.
Through June 4.
Marcia Wood Gallery
263 Walker St SW
Atlanta, GA 30313