Brooke Alexander presents a selection of works on paper by Sylvia Plimack Mangold. Through prints, drawings and painting the exhibition focuses on the artist’s observations of trees in winter.
Plimack Mangold has concentrated on the natural environment surrounding her upstate New York home since the 1970s. The artist has studied the many trees (Elm, Maple, Pin Oak…) continually through the years and seasons. These repeated interpretations contain a sense of intimacy with her subjects, and this familiarity has allowed her to move beyond the detail-oriented and illusionistic aspects of her earlier subjects (such as floors, corners and rulers). Each tree has its unique form, but there is a looseness that frees the artist from the purely documentary aspects often associated with landscape painting.
Sylvia Plimack Mangold employs a direct approach in her tree images. They tend to be quite frontal: zoomed-in and tightly-cropped. It is clear that the tree is the subject. It is not lost in bucolic rolling hills. We see them close-up and towering. By showing the top half of the trees, we are made to concentrate on the transition from strong trunks to wispy branch-ends. The sculptural nature of this strength and geometry is emphasized even more so in her winter images of bare trees. Most of the works on view are black and white, or with only a minimal amount of color. This heightens the sense of cold air and grey skies. The starkness is a combination of rigorous beauty and serenity.
Neither a pure minimalist nor realist, the seriality of Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s nature paintings are a beautiful meditation on time, subject and atmosphere.