In Raymond Saunders' paintings, an education on how to rebel

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, April 18, 2024

In Raymond Saunders' paintings, an education on how to rebel
Raymond Saunders, Walls I Have Known II, 1983. Acrylic, chalk, collage, and mixed media on canvas in two (2) parts. Overall: 81 1/4 x 101 3/8 inches (206.4 x 257.5 cm) Part 1: 81 x 48 3/8 inches (205.7 x 122.9 cm) Part 2: 81 1/4 x 53 inches (206.4 x 134.6 cm)

by Zoë Hopkins

NEW YORK, NY.- As much as they are works of art, the assemblage-like paintings of Raymond Saunders are works of archaeology.

In “Post No Bills,” a four-decade overview of his work at two galleries — David Zwirner in Chelsea and Andrew Kreps in Tribeca — one gets the sense that the artist is excavating his own paintings, literally digging beneath their surfaces to expose hidden layers.

In “Saturdays of Black Color and Habitual Gestures” (1987), for example, Saunders mounts scraps of discarded posters, newspapers and street signage on canvas and then tears at them, yielding a distressed texture of buried paint and paper. In “Pittsburgh ’07-11” (2007), a thick layer of white paint has dried and cracked like a desert floor, its fissured topography revealing black gesso (a primer that makes canvasses smoother and less absorbent). There is life beneath the surface, and it is not content to stay there.

“Post No Bills” is a sprawling map of Saunders’ searching mind and hard-to-categorize work. The artist, now 89, draws from the improvisatory impulses of jazz, the power of abstract expressionism, the eclectic excessiveness of assemblage and the academic classicism of Renaissance painting.

His cartwheeling and singular aesthetic strategy teases the eye in “Places Near and Far” (1986), a work in which the precision of minimalism rubs up against the bombast of painterly marks whose wild coils and curves evoke abstract expressionism. Found materials, including street signage rulers, ornithology illustrations and children’s drawings, festoon the canvas, mingling with hurried chalk annotations and sprays of gestural brushwork resembling graffiti.

Paintings like “Drawing a Still Life” (1987) and “A, B, See” (1996) reveal Saunders’ penchant for seemingly out-of-place art historical motifs, like elegant chalk drawings of Baroque still-life-esque pears and flowers. There is no easy way for the viewer to make sense of this motley group of elements, and it is this difficulty that makes the paintings so powerful.

The exhibition, curated by Ebony Haynes, director of David Zwirner’s outpost 52 Walker, also illuminates Saunders’ way of speaking to the broader social and visual world. The exhibition’s title, borrowed from a 1968 work on display, is a familiar part of the urban landscape, evoking the city walls worn down by cycles of illicit yet obdurate flyposting, removal and reposting.

Here, such urban surfaces are analogized to the rough and variegated texture of Saunders’ canvases; both are teeming with layers of articulation and erasure, both are archives of their own histories.

In several paintings, signs reading “Post No Bills” share the canvas with abundant brushwork and exuberant collages that disobey these directives of orderliness. Amplifying this renegade sensibility, Haynes has plastered some of the gallery walls with vinyl sheets featuring blown-up details of Saunders’ canvases, mucking up the usual austerity of the rooms.

Saunders rebels beneath the surface of his paintings, too. Throughout his career, he has asked where a painting starts — what exactly is a blank canvas? Rather than accepting white as the neutral starting point for painting, Saunders often builds dizzying assemblages up from a base of black gesso.

While some viewers may think such gestures are political, Saunders has long pushed back against a reductive linking of an artist’s work to their racial identity. In “Black Is a Color,” a 1967 essay, he rebuffed the ambitions of the Black Arts Movement — the cultural cousin of Black nationalism — as an unacceptable restriction on artistic freedom. Suggesting that Black identity solely defined one’s work was a gross error, he wrote, and by separating the two, “we get clear of these degrading limitations, and recognize the wider reality of art, where color is the means, not the end.”

This insistence that black is, indeed, a color reverberates from the paintings in “Post No Bills.” In them, we witness a lifelong exploration of the pleasure, variety and depth of black. At times it glistens with sleek sheen, at others it wrinkles like skin, and at still others it is matter-of-fact matte.

The black background also suggests another site of investigative inquiry: the blackboard. Saunders has taught at universities including the California College of Arts and California State University, Hayward (now California State University, East Bay), and his painting career is unthinkable without the inquisitive buzz of the classroom. In “Flowers From a Black Garden, no. 51” (1993), a miniature blackboard is affixed to the canvas. Coming from an educator’s mind and soul, Saunders’ work teaches our eyes how to ask questions, how to dig deep.

Raymond Saunders: Post No Bills

Through April 6 at David Zwirner, 519 & 525 W. 19th St.;; and Andrew Kreps Gallery, 22 Cortlandt Alley, Manhattan; 212-741-8849;

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

April 3, 2024

'Star Trek' fan leaves behind a collection like no one has done before

'Hidden Faces: Covered Portraits of the Renaissance' opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Raymond Saunders' paintings, an education on how to rebel

San Antonio Museum of Art presents 'Ángel Rodríguez-Díaz: The Goddess Triptych' reunited focus exhibition

A lifetime under the moon's shadow

Vik Muniz: 'Scraps and Legal Tender' on view at Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

Gió Marconi opens Alex Da Corte's first exhibition in Milan since 2015

Solo exhibition by Zhang Yingnan on view at KÖNIG SEOUL

The Vancouver Art Gallery launches three curatorial residencies

Exhibition of new paintings by Carrie Rudd opens at Polina Berlin Gallery

William John Kennedy's 'Lost Archive' of Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana Photographs - opens in London

Mendes Wood DM Sao Paulo presents 'Funduras' by Solange Pessoa

Eleven new member dealers from across the United States join the Art Dealers Association of America

'Newcastle' by Luke David Kellett published in April 2024

Rune Bosse will take over the greenhouse in the Ordrupgaard Art Park

Secrets of a Danish castle

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung appointed chief curator of the 36th Bienal de São Paulo

Prats Nogueras Blanchard opens new gallery space with exhibition by Muntadas

A Secondary Eye to open new gallery in Sydney

Madonna and Barbra are fans. Broadway, meet Lempicka.

For 50 years Ailey II has been a proving ground, not just for dance

5 classical music albums you can listen to right now

Mastering the Reels: Strategies for Joker Gaming Slots

Your Path to Consulting Interview Success: The Ultimate Case Interview Guide

Mining Marvels: Exploring the Best of Hyperbit Cloud Mining

Mobile Slots Gaming: Tips for Playing on the Go Without Draining Your Battery

The Psychological Edge: Mindset Techniques for Staying Focused and Winning at Slots

Ethereum Price and Crypto Art: A New Frontier for Investors

Los Angeles Architects: Blending Tradition and Progress in Cultural Preservation

Market Size of Custom Fridge Magnets

Mastering Luck: Winning Tactics for Slot Gacor Online

The Ultimate Guide to Winning Big in Slot Gacor Games

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful