On ViewAmy Lincoln: Radiant Spectrum
Sperone Westwater |
March 3, 2023 – May 6, 2023
The task of capturing natural light through landscape painting is one as familiar and thoroughly explored as any in art history. Accordingly, we might approach the spectacular series of imagined landscapes and seascapes in Amy Lincoln’s exhibition, Radiant Spectrum, as ripe for comparison to many other artists and movements that focused on documenting the external world. But such equations would overlook the distinctive accomplishments of the paintings on display at Sperone Westwater. Formally more aligned with minimal abstraction, Lincoln’s work employs subtly restrained systems to produce a myriad of alluring colors in compositions that embody the tranquility of nature.
Starting with only about three colors per painting (plus white), the artist uses layers of acrylic paint on wood to create an abundance of startling color combinations in her imagined and pared-down vistas. Exemplifying this control of color, Sun and Moon Spectrum (2022) is the first, largest, and most ambitious work on display. The three sizable panels depict half of a sun and half of a moon, each to the leftmost and rightmost edge of the painting, radiating waves of light over three rows of smooth multicolored ocean waves. The abstracted sun and moon, light waves, and water all create a symmetrical spectrum of color where the two glowing orbs emit waves in the shape of zig-zags and curves—the values get darker and darker until they meet in the middle as a deep purple. The colors on the water’s surface between each wave crest vary, too, reflecting many different combinations and gradients of the sunlight and moonlight depending on each wave’s position between the two light sources.
Lincoln’s work is preoccupied with phenomenology and dictated by precise systems: symmetrical compositions, geometric forms, repeating patterns and shapes, and maximal use of material. Rather than seeing what the environment does to an object, Lincoln creates spaces based on nature to highlight our extraordinary ability to perceive the complex beauty of the environment. Color becomes a critical catalyst for Lincoln’s scenes, serving as a vibrant translation of the direct experience of the visual pleasure found in nature. These paintings also use a minimal vernacular to create an idyllic atmosphere where any rough or brutal aspects of nature are replaced with meditative applications of paint.
Alongside glowing seascapes, Lincoln’s landscapes are typically depicted with a finite number of carefully rendered trees in a range of colors. Gingko Trees (Gold and Violet) (2023) presents two rows of six gingko trees, two in the front and four in the back, with delicate, uniform fan-shaped leaves illuminated by a setting sun that bends the tree’s shadows towards the back of the horizon line. Brilliant vertical bands of color are also used to represent the lit sky and land, with an intense golden orange at both the top of the sky and the bottom of the ground that becomes a sunset pink-purple at the center. The trees are also shaped by their proximity to the sun: Lincoln uses four lines of different colors to show the fading intensity of the sunlight wrapping around them. The artist’s luminous landscapes utilize the same systems, with different captivating variations on the colors of the landscape, the direction of lighting, and the type of trees, which emphasizes the delightful differences between each painting.
The exhibition occupies two floors of Sperone Westwater’s gallery space, and includes twelve paintings and five studies that, while not as effective as the larger works, provide great insight into the artist’s working process. When considering the exhibition as a whole, it’s difficult not to contemplate the artist’s work in the context of the global climate crisis. Regardless of whether this is Lincoln’s intent, it almost seems socially irresponsible not to approach it through an ecocritical lens, especially with an enormous, looming sun being the focal point in so much of the work. Perhaps by looking at Amy Lincoln’s paintings with the same reverence she holds for the earth, we ourselves can learn to appreciate the profound qualities of the natural world with something like the adoration evident in her paintings.