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Sewell Sillman
Peyton Wright Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recommendation by Iris McLister


Sewell Sillman, ''Untitled,'' 1966, oil on masonite, 35 1/2 x 43 3/4''.

 

Continuing through October 17, 2012

 

Comprised of optically exhilarating meditations on color and line, this thoughtful cross-section of Sewell Sillman’s (1924-1992) oeuvre conveys a mid-century hipness that feels triumphantly contemporary. The artist’s predilection for vibrant arrangements of color is often attributed to time he spent studying with Bauhaus heavyweight Josef Albers, of whom Sillman was an early protégé. Indeed, Albers’ bold aggregations of color and form are powerfully evidenced in works like 1961’s “Katchina.” With its tomato soup-red background and overlapping rectangles of wispy grays and whites, the work hearkens to those from Albers’s “Homage to the Square” series.

 

Stark black and white works in watercolor and pencil were created with Zen-like precision. Sillman’s technique of line-making, in which smooth pencil strokes are abruptly broken, results in intriguingly jagged marks and slanted slashes. In “Cutting Edges,” rows of meticulously shaded barbs tic and whir across the paper like ninja stars in motion, or like intercepted telegraph signals made visible. No matter the media, these are commanding works that convey an evocative, psychologically taut, intensity. 


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