devening projects + editions is very pleased to invite you to the opening of The Story of What Happens, an exhibition of new works on paper by NY artist Gary Stephan. In his second exhibition with the gallery, Gary Stephan presents—for the first time—over 100 works on paper produced over that last two years. Please join us for the opening reception on Sunday, August 26th from 4-7, meet Gary Stephan and celebrate the opening of our fall season.
For the past two years, Gary Stephan has buoyed his painting practice by producing medium-sized works on paper, usually in acrylic; the series now numbers over 150. Working daily to coax out some new way to distill form and perception through abstraction, Stephan uses the medium to charge his thinking and exercise his extensive practice. The results are surprisingly casual; the work is deft of touch and always evocative. Light is factor; temperatures shift and atmosphere comes into play. Rarely bright, these pieces reflect the dusky evenings of New York and the filtered light of his studio in upstate New York. That light is enhanced by some refreshingly new chromatic episodes, but almost always, the intensity of the color is tempered and reminiscent of his larger canvases. The visual elements in each composition never sit easily within an organic/geometric marker, but require the viewer to find some other reference for the events taking place in front of them. There are grids, rectangles and shapes that orient to the edge, but they seem important mostly to reference the plane. The real work comes from those parts that move in to destabilize those anchors. “Things” move in front of and behind these planes, and like every other work Stephan has made since the early 80s, the actual spatial position of those things is suspect. There are edges everywhere, but they’re slippery and rarely denote what’s expected. You trust these ends to be attached to something greater, something more, but often they linger in place, rarely drifting beyond the flag-point they hold to note a place. At other times, a thing may reveal itself as connected and you begin to realize the story is extended beyond what you thought initially. The phenomenology of these effects comes in part from how the parts of each work are simultaneously solid and porous; the physicality of form is fugitive, shifting opacities and densities. Stephan’s devices work to disarm our understanding of how a thing moves across and from front to back. Our eyes seek and track. Paint makes that happen; Stephan’s hand does that and it does it over and over again.
Gary Stephan’s mark is also worth discussion. As a painter deftly familiar with his medium and its properties, Stephan builds the work less as a sequence of gestures but more as series of resolute proclamations. The stated fact of each move declares not just the evidence of his hand, but a decisiveness that makes it real matter, even if that matter creates perceptual conundrums. There is an uncanny combination of certainty and elusiveness in this work making this a noteworthy project. The beauty of this series comes from its alive-ness; the actuality of material and perceptual fact brings it into the world and places it firmly among us.
Two people look into a field in which is a big green tree. One asks the other “what is that about?” The tree is not about something; it is something. All of the decisions in this show from the pencil lines, to the distances, the paper and the images are to be seen. It is the seeing and the seen that is something. The story of what happens.
Gary Stephan 2012
Gary Stephan has been showing his painting and sculpture since the late sixties in the United States and Europe. He has had solo shows in New York at Bykert Gallery, Mary Boone Gallery, Hirschl and Adler and Marlborough Gallery; in Los Angeles at Margo Leavin Gallery and Daniel Weinberg Gallery; and in Berlin at Galerie Kienzle and Gmeiner among many others. His work can be found in the collections of The Guggenheim Museum of Art, The Metropolitan and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as museums nationwide. He is the recipient of awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches in the MFA program at School of Visual Arts in NYC and is currently represented by Kienzle Art Foundation in Berlin. Gary Stephan lives and works in New York City and Stone Ridge, NY.