Laura Chasman | Nancy Gruskin | Leslie Sills

Life: from life

March 9 - April 22

Reception

Saturday, March 11, 3-5

Laura Chasman, Jessica, gouache on paper

Laura Chasman, Jessica, gouache on paper

 
 
 
 

Room 83 Spring is pleased to present Life: from life, a show exploring the intimacies of proximity and place in contemporary portraiture and interiors. In paintings by Laura Chasman, and Nancy Gruskin, and sculpture by Leslie Sills, the domestic domain is celebrated as a deeply personal cache, tender, trend-free, timeless. From Alice Neel to Alex Katz, Fairfield Porter to David Park, Marisol to Mapplethorpe – Chasman, Gruskin, and Sills extend a lineage attesting to the visual richness of familial inspiration. 

Friends and family could be a loaded subject. Yet, through the lens of love, Chasman, Gruskin, and Sills disarm any notion of a fraught dynamic. Each artist elevates the ordinary, honors the awkward, and delights in the spontaneous. In socks, t-shirts, and sneakers, their kin and kindred spirits savor informal rituals, revel in the moment, and embrace the everyday. Life and lives observed and cherished, Chasman, Gruskin, and Sills transmute paint and clay into expressive equivalents of the heart.

Intimate in scale and deceptively immediate in execution, Laura Chasman’s gouache portraits on paper are invitations to a private encounter. Each of her subjects is noble-ized by her gaze and touch. Economic and essential, Chasman’s skillful painterly description deftly opens the door to a deep human connection. Casual, exact, candid, and formal, the fundamentals of her painting give way to something more foundational, something beyond how a person looks to who they truly are.

Chasman prioritizes a relational experience for the observer. The portrait of the artist’s niece, “Jessica”, as in many of Chasman’s paintings is an example of the expert hierarchy of viewing that the artist activates. Drawn in by the painting’s small scale and familiarity, Chasman’s sure-handedness and speed excites. One’s eye moves quickly from the broad spacious strokes of the interior or background to the finer yet no less charged strokes that define the figure, ultimately coming face to face with the subject’s eyes. The intensity of the exchange is further animated by the spaces between the paint strokes and the areas that Chasman leaves unpainted – the visual volley between the two lending energy and breath to the engagement.

Nothing escapes Nancy Gruskin’s affectionate attention. Not the toaster, not the take-out, not the sinewy lengthening limbs of adolescence or the gesture of a dog’s paw at rest. Here is the stuff of life; large and small, extraordinary and average, rendered in a way that equalizes and democratizes all – people, places, and things. It is this equanimity that generously inhabits Gruskin’s world. Solid, trustworthy and hospitable, Gruskin’s acrylic gouache paintings are homages to a home-centric life, peripherally viewed and underpinned with metaphor.

Harmonizing with her choice of subject matter is an intentional palette, abundant with mixed values and a range of mid-tones. Together with her puzzle-like compositional aplomb, the paintings deliver a relaxed and delectable observational meander. In a depiction of self, “You Look Like One of Your Paintings”, Gruskin stands barefoot, arm akimbo, in an orange floral dress. The figure embedded in a balanced asymmetric arrangement of pattern, color, shape, and stroke is emblematic of Gruskin’s fair, objective and confident endeavor.

Sculptor and author of award-winning books for children, Leslie Sills is naturally inclined toward story and narrative. Her portraits and figures startle with an innocence to convey human qualities informed by empathy and insight. They represent friends and acquaintances and become dimensional memories preserved in clay, fabric, paint, and glaze. The artist’s home is her studio, her classroom, and her muse.

Giving form to the human spirit in its many manifestations is Sills’ passion. In “Blue Hill Boy” the artist portrays an unlikely yet believable bond between a boy and a duck. Emphasizing only that which is honest and essential, the hand built sculpture is alive with tactile delight. A sense of presence is further expressed by a rich vocabulary of marks made with tools incising the clay and paint applied after firing. Blue eyes, brown feathers, flushed cheeks and tender hands are very simply – made real.