Pat Steir, 2011
Text by Anna C. Chave
44 pages, Softcover
Published by Locks Art Publications
Pat Steir's painting is rich with her "romance" with the history of art, as she puts it, and her friendship with John Cage, who introduced her to the potential for accident and chance in art-making. In a conceptual manner, she pre-establishes the sequence of paint colors that she pours, one at a time, on the canvas. But each time, the pigment chemistry, the paint texture, and the gravity force lead to unforeseen results, creating densely layered meditative spaces within the canvas. If Steir's work, and her signature "waterfall" paintings in particular, draw from the New York School, it is also influenced by a longstanding study of Chinese traditional landscape painting. Her art evokes to the viewer the grandeur of Nature, as if he was standing alone in front of a sacred mountain. Lately, her work "suggests more subtly vaporous reaches, say, of rainwater streaming down and beading up on walls or windowpanes. At times fairly disparate, non-aqueous effects emerge, too, as of loose threads or netlike webs, craquelure, or even ceramic. In the format that Steir presently favors - with the canvas divided vertically, evenly in two--the qualities of one side of any given painting are effectively set off by the distinct qualities of the adjacent side, such that an engrossing visual dialogue usually ensues, while the seam between the sides can become especially charged," Chave writes. With these twofold paintings, Steir seems to pay homage to Barnett Newman in her own way. The vertical border, by delineating two contrasted areas, enlightens the accidental part of Steir's work, where pigments blend or stand out and paint drips unexpectedly. In her own words: "To make the edge that meets in an unexpected way is like walking a tightrope."