Contributed by Brian Dupont / I have long been engaged with Mark Sheinkman’s art. I was in grad school when I first came across an image of one of his paintings in an art magazine. It had twisting lines, interrupted with erasures that read as glitches, wrapped around a pair of tubes, like a scroll barely opened. The transition of the marks revealed that the work was made on both sides of the canvas, but otherwise they revealed little in the way of authorial intention. As an object it had a complex structure that was at once considered and impersonal, and I was struck that this was made by someone who shared my interest in process and erasure. I set about trying to find more examples of Sheinkman’s work, which was no easy task before every image was readily available on the Internet. There was little to find, but I’m certain that I remember his work all the more for the search. Sheinkman’s new paintings, on view at Lennon, Weinberg through May 18, reveal an artist who is opening up his practice to new explorations, most notably via bright color.
This change is not as drastic a departure from his decade-long engagement with grisaille as it might initially seem. For over a decade he built up graphite grounds and then worked the surface back to the white priming, not so much building up his smoky ribbons as excavating them. The resulting works were polished and serene, and skirted the line between gesture and representation. By contrast, Sheinkman’s debut exhibition at the gallery in 2017 showed more frenetic mark making, exploring the figure ground relationships more directly by letting his gestures spread over the entire canvas in looping gray tangles akin to Jackson Pollock or spiky patterns that evoke the Op art of Bridget Riley plus a few too many espressos; these were my favorites. It was as if Sheinkman were considering the history of abstract painting in discrete units and seeing what would be useful to him going forward. The addition of color in the newest works allows him a broader exploration of space and mark making, and all feel transitional in the best possible way: they are about simply starting without preconceived destination or velocity, for the sake of learning from the journey.
The swirling alizarin of Forbell harkens back to his more recent tonal approach, but the tangle builds a tight mass of thinner, dark lines centered on the canvas, sitting over a ground of wider gestures fading out to softer pinks. The resulting contrast in the layers sets up an oscillation between the front-most layers of the painting: it pulls you into the painting while the illusion of space at the back of the painting seems to move forward. The orange ground and black brushstrokes in Hampton take an opposite approach, each sitting on the plane of the canvas with a materiality reminiscent of David Reed. Areas of erasure are set against echoes of twisting red; different elements can claim the front of the painting’s shallow space depending on how you look, but none can do so for long and the painting snaps back to the flatness of the canvas surface.
The selection of paintings makes good use of the gallery expanse, allowing the viewer to focus on the smaller paintings on their own terms, but also as a lead-in to the larger works. The most successful these are explorations at a specific scale, not merely as sketches or studies for larger works. The linear meanderings of Vandalia and Dewey play with the palette and atmosphere of Willem de Kooning, with red and ultramarine vaporizing into the white ground. The allusion comes from the pallete, though, and the gesture, whether by brush or eraser, is wholly Sheinkman’s. Here we can see he continues to consider precedents in abstraction as he works, so de Kooning’s slashing energy feels present in the painterly construction in Junius, and especially Roosevelt, but the these are not the master’s color choices. Sheinkman has built color fields out of the gestural stacking of cubist space (something he did in black and white in 2017).
It is impossible to know the chronology of the works in the show; most are 2019, with only a few dated to last year, and it is likely that many of these were painted simultaneously, sitting in the studio for reflection and reworking while different ideas took hold. That said, a pleasing narrative is easy to construct from the multi-hued presence of Hinsdale and Elton, leaning against the studio wall amid their tonal relatives, waiting for a new direction to take hold. The show builds to the exclamation of the largest painting, Hendrix. It feels exuberant in its freedom to proclaim the use of the whole spectrum in a single image, and the scale invokes the full body of artist and viewer. The light in the painting may be reminiscent of Cy Twombly, who is impossible not to reference within such twisting networks. But Sheinkman also presents a sense of grace and joy, something we all need right now.
Note: It is perhaps fitting that an exhibition that presents an artist opening up his art to new possibilities will also be the last show at this gallery. Jill Weinberg has elected to close Lennon, Weinberg’s exhibition program in favor of exploring new directions of her own. While it’s sad to lose such an eclectic program and easy to see the increasing stresses on the middle of the art market as a cause for the loss, I’m confident that wherever her new journey takes her will not be too far away from the byways of the New York art world, and I for one wish her well.
“Mark Sheinkman: New Paintings,” Lennon, Weinberg, Inc., Chelsea, 514 West 25th Street, New York, NY. Through May 18, 2019.
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