Emily Mason: Summer’s Response
The work of acclaimed color abstractionist Emily Mason will comprise the upcoming exhibition Summer’s Response on view at the Railyard gallery location from April 27 through June 10, 2012. It will be the artist’s fifth solo presentation at LewAllen Galleries. One of America’s foremost non-representational painters, Emily Mason has spent more than six decades exploring her distinctive vein of lyrical, luminous abstraction. Robert Berlind said of her in Art in America: “Mason works within the improvisational model of Abstract Expressionism, though notably without angst or bravado.”
If Georgia O’Keeffe and Agnes Martin were noted for having transformed 20th century Modern painting in the Southwest, Emily Mason can be regarded as having played a preeminent role in taking the New York Abstract Expressionist tradition and re-conceiving its expressive possibilities in the 21st century.
As one of America’s finest contemporary abstract painters, Mason’s use of luscious color acts as a vital pictorial proponent in relaying her work’s singularly poetic qualities. Her surfaces may include a solidly opaque field of color or many transparent, layered washes scraped or sanded down to maintain the appearance of a single surface. Employing a broad spectrum of colors in a seemingly limitless range of saturations and hues, her paintings also contain an underlying order which serves to inform and refine their structure.
The stirring beauty of Mason’s work has remarkable power to engage the viewer even as it evokes equanimity. Striking areas of lush color alternate with fields of opaque pigment, intensifying one’s sense of the unexpected. Revealed is the power of the indistinct, that ineffable quality of the uncertain to yield joy, grace and inspiration. Laying eyes on these works’ vibrant colors, mediated hues, and compositional harmonies, one has the feeling of coming close to the edge of the unknown, of entering an enticing realm that sharpens the senses and enriches our understanding of life.
Though her practice is firmly rooted in the New York Abstract Expressionist tradition of the mid-20th century, Mason has cultivated a quiet refinement in contemporary non-representational painting; the easy grace of Mason’s paint application surpasses the unrestrained gesticulations of her action painter forebears and produces a uniquely beguiling body of work. She is improvisational in her application of paint and in her response to its movement. Central to Mason’s paintings are the interactions between lush, arresting color and nonobjective form. The engrossing depth and porcelain smooth surface texture of Mason’s canvasses is perhaps due to her incorporation of duel sensibilities – the Color Field artist’s surface sensitivity and the Abstract Expressionist’s muscular spontaneity.
Mason has described her process as a combination of serendipity and conscientious collaboration with chance while staying alert to the beauty of unintended consequence. Her highly expressive abstractions result from a synergy of diverse techniques including pouring, staining, scumbling, blotting, and deft brushwork methods that emphasize intuitive procedures and introduce energizing, unpredictable compositional elements. Merging acute instinct with sophisticated structure, Mason continues to extend the formal vocabulary and expressive potential of contemporary abstraction. Today, Emily Mason’s work may be thought of as a kind of bridge between the New York School of the 1950s and 1960s and more recent developments in abstract painting.
Mason was born in New York City. She studied at Bennington College and graduated from Cooper Union in 1955. Mason’s work has been exhibited internationally and is included in numerous public and private collections.