Contributed by Franklin Einspruch / Among several of my quixotic projects is to farm a heretofore neglected front yard for vegetables. It is, as they say, a work in progress. I am in charge of this project, and yet I am not. Much depends on my scant knowledge, my incomplete attention, my limited power to see windfalls in the accidents, my sizable but nonetheless finite willingness to spend hours digging in the dirt.
This self-inflicted predicament summarizes the making of modernist paintings.
Non-objective art has no purpose except to exist in a good state of being. This remains a challenging problem to take up as an artist, and one that resists description when the time comes to talk about it. If it were amenable to words it would have no reason to exist, and artists drawn to it would find the next intractable, ineffable difficulty to solve. Here is Susan Post, hard at work, hemmed in by intuitively chosen constraints, and painting handsome pictures.
Post began her graduate work on the landscape, finished a devout non-representational painter, and for five years worked within an abstract format consisting of seven vertical stripes. These current paintings entwine the two, the free, picture-making approach with the orderly, shape-arranging one. This is how it is. Your intuition tells you to let loose, then it tells you to get organized, then it tells you to do both, and then neither. You work on one piece and the next, ostensibly leading the effort, but really at the mercy of materials and mind-states. The cack-handed line you put down might save the painting from itself. You didn’t mean to mix up that purple but there it is and it’s perfect, so you put it on, and suddenly your intentions matter again.
Paintings like Concentration, with its abraded layers and its informal, yet assured composition of soft rectangles, speak of patience with doubt. Why it works to make the shapes wider here and taller there, or to reverse the figure and ground in the upper right corner, is not knowable. But she navigates that unknown. The results don’t speak of any ease in doing so, but of perseverance and finally deliverance. Pink One looks like it came with less struggle, but the fight may be buried under the softness of touch. Either way it glows, summery and vibrant.
A garden doesn’t have a message, it is a testimony to care and time. The paintings of Susan Post invite a similar kind of admiration at the whole bounty of art, going on around the artist and within her.
About the author: While maintaining a studio practice as a painter in Boston, Franklin Einspruch is also active in art criticism and comics, and has long experience in alternative publishing. His art reviews have appeared in Art in America and The New Criterion. His imprint, New Modern Press, publishes the anthology Comics as Poetry and the forthcoming Aphorisms for Artists.
“Sue Post: Weed/Garden,” The Painting Center, New York, NY. Through October 1, 2016. This essay was originally published in the exhibition catalogue for this show. Also on view: Solos by Barbara Laube and Louisa Waber.
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