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Emily Mason
LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recommendation by Iris McLister

Emily Mason, “Activated,” 2013, oil on canvas, 42 x 40”.

Continuing through June 1 2014

A presentation of recent paintings by octogenarian Emily Mason is a dazzling tribute to a top-shelf abstractionist. Mason, who comes from a long line of heavy hitting American artists — mom was early non-objective painter Alice Trumbull, and grandpa was John Trumbull — works in a distinctly expressionist vein. Yet her practice is notably (and refreshingly) absent the aggression and angst associated with so many of her New York peers. Mason’s focus on color is all-consuming, and her canvases are juicy, wantonly unpredictable arrangements of lush Kool-Aid pinks and foamy blues. No wonder that a visit to this sleek gallery space feels like skipping through a box of crayons; Mason’s paintings are happy confrontations of too-good-to-be-true color, usually concerned with one shade that spirals off into myriad variants.

"A Different Note" radiates golden yellow, a shimmery, hot-summer hue that seems to burst forth from the canvas. Mason’s unabashedly red and pink compositions stand out. “Downsized" contains fuchsia, crimson, coral and violet, all interrupted with shafts of pale purple, cream, and Tiffany blue. Mason’s color combinations come off as elegant and pleasing, but we sense that they could be unpleasantly unruly if crafted by a lesser hand.

"On Track" is a swollen stretch of red color, which thrills in its approximation to something intimate, internal and potentially violent — like a gaping wound or a dripping heart. This sea of wet red is dotted with patches of lapis and turquoise that appear like chunks of dappled, precious stones. Mason’s powerfully unfettered abstraction reflects the joy of painting, a rare treat that will leave you tickled pink (or teal, or tangerine, or tourmaline…).

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