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Silver Linings at the Long-Sharp Gallery Project Space, New York City


Silver Linings features work by Dove Bradshaw, Robert Indiana, Nancy Lorenz, Gino Miles, William John Kennedy, Cordy Ryman, Edvins Strautmanis and Thalen & Thalen. Each of these artists work with a version of refined silver or the surprisingly diverse palette of materials that capture the essence or illusion of the historically prized element. Qualities of reflection, beauty, disintegration, intrinsic value and instability are all explored, expanding on silver's long legacy in art making. Each artist was selected for their unique approach, from the highly refined sculptural work of the father-son duo Thalen and Thalen to the more intuitive inclusion of silver-like paint in the work of Cordy Ryman or the tiny suspended silver particles forming images in the classic photographs of William John Kennedy.

Dove Bradshaw's imagery is rooted in a long abstract painting tradition, while at the same time depending on chemical reactions that are both planned and wrought by the vagaries of time and atmosphere. Trusting her process, she applies silver leaf to canvas only to disrupt the pristine surface with an application of liver of sulfur, a corrosive material that leaves its dark trace as it eats away bits of silver. The paintings will continue to shift very slowly over time as the silver leaf tarnishes to beautiful shades of copper and brown, with tiny hints of other vibrant shades. The calculated instability, as in Contingency (Thorns VI) , gives these elegant works both magic and mystery as we watch them unfold.

The iconic American artist Robert Indiana emerged in the 1960s to play a key role in the development of Pop art, hard edged painting and assemblage. A self proclaimed "American painter of signs," his work explores touchstones of our national culture and identity, focusing on the overt and subconscious power of language. The resonance of his work was first recognized in 1964 with his most famous work LOVE, which continues to have global reach. The piece in this show, Silver HOPE, was part of a series he created in 2008 to support then candidate Barack Obama. Instinctively singling out the most important theme of the campaign, he used varied composition and color to allow for all of the nuance inherent in our individual responses to the word.

William John Kennedy began his career in fashion photography, before becoming a top freelance editorial photographer in New York. Here his rare photograph of Andy Warhol shows the artist in his studio holding the acetate bearing his famous image of Marilyn. A testament to their friendship, Kennedy gained remarkable access to Andy's studio, taking this image just as Warhol began to make history. It was also at a moment when photography was gaining momentum as a recognized art form, while at the same time traditional gelatin silver prints were losing favor in the excitement of the new, of color. With all of our focus on image it is interesting to remember that real silver is an integral component of traditional black and white photography.

In her recent Elements series, Nancy Lorenz took inspirations from the 19th century concept of the periodic table of elements, in which the universe could be categorized by its individual parts. By translating each element into an individual artwork based on her own intuitive responses to its characteristics, Lorenz seamlessly merges the scientific and the poetic. The physicality of Ge32 Germanium plays to the element’s material features of an inherent luster and hardness, as well as to its lack of necessity for human life. Lorenz brings both knowledge of and reverence for the precious materials used in traditional Asian art to her painting practice, resulting in a wonderful balance between abstract painting, sculpture and craft.

Gino Miles has always been interested in the classic harmony between man and nature,  sing spare visual language to create lyrical forms in tight balance with the negative space around them. Inspired by 20th century European masters, Miles distills his respect for modern art history into his own spare contemporary language embodying meditation and tranquility. Stripped of overt narrative, his abstract forms are fabricated by hand, achieving a visible poetic harmony while offering subtle references to both the human form and to traditional cultures. His work in aluminum and steel offer two notable visual attributes of silver — remarkable luminosity and surface—while maintaining the integrity of his chosen material.

Cordy Ryman prefers the formalist geometry of classic shapes while remaining equally engaged with an intuitive reactive process. His materials are culled from his own studio – bits of large installations or pieces once used in other works, now dismantled. Each component retains the richness of its built-in history, uniting with its brethren in fresh compositions, under a coa

The work of painter Linda Schrank uses “a continuous linear rhythm to create volume”, particularly evident in the series of etchings, Rounding the Corner. Here the dense field of warm silver is interrupted by 2 animated lines of emphatic color, emphasizing the artists interest in “breathing made visible.” Drawing the viewer into her conjured spaces, there is, in all of her work, a continuous process of discovery, a place that is both mirror and window.

A rarely shown monotype from Edvins Strautmanis’ Roman Coin series exemplifies his deep knowledge of art history and his commanding adeptness with abstract language. Best known for monumental canvases that built on the foundations of action painting and abstract expressionism, his own fearless sense of color, vocabulary of fluid marks and calligraphic strokes became his signature. In this series, among his last works, Strautmanis was inspired by the half-eroded portraits on ancient coins, intentionally limiting his palette to mostly silver andshades of black. We can see the passage of modern art history in these works, constructed from the foundation of the past.

Rob and Jaap Thalen, the father and son silversmiths known as Thalen & Thalen, use the finest and purest silver available in their work first because it is extremely malleable and, importantly, because it doesn’t tarnish easily. Poised between functional art and sculpture, they are often inspired by nature, particularly the mountain landscape near their Belgian home. Rob’s training as a sculptor and Jaap’s as an architect inform their beautifully proportioned, masterfully crafted and sensuously tactile works. “To us silver is nothing more than a means of creating shapes...We are looking for the shapes that invite touch.”

The individual perspectives of these eight artists, their unique approaches to studio practice and the resulting artworks, embody a range of responses to a single material. Whether focusing on historic meaning, chemical composition, visual aesthetics or specific features like luster or reflection, each of the works in this show contributes its own interpretation of silver’s unique qualities and significance.

Later Event: May 21
Claire Seidl: Exposures