Amy Sillman wrote a thoughtful catalog essay for “Laura Newman: Glass Walls and Billboards,” a 2010 exhibition at the Anna Leonowens Gallery, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. Here’s an excerpt from an edited version that appears in the latest Art Critical.
“If one considers the notion of the parallax view as a function of this work, one quickly arrives at the flipside of the parallax coin: the blind spot. Sure enough, though seeing is key to Newman’s work, at its core is the implication of a psychic blind spot. The emphasis on sight, through the many vistas, vanishing points and spatial geometries, implies that there must be some witness, some beholder, some subject at the heart of the action, a gaze that must proceed from SOMEWHERE. But this spot goes undescribed, and is located only at a vortex of blindness. There is at the center of Newman’s work a sense of silence, of immobility or non-inflection, as though the psychic subject of her paintings is a gaze from a void. It is this strangely voided subjectivity in the work that gives Newman’s paintings their feeling of serene, almost majestic, anxiety. The qualities of emptiness and flatness seem to stand for seeing itself, and a subject who has, to a certain extent, disappeared. This self is therefore equivalent to the mind’s eye(s): paradoxical, interior.
“Self as disappearance is a contradictory effect in a kind of painting with such strong ties to subjectivity and embodiment as Newman’s. Her work owes much to a tradition of muscular painterly gestures and the trial-and-error procedures of expressionism. But as Newman’s work often functions through its dualities – its sets of opposing images, like double windows or walls, twin bands of color, or twin sets of cloud formations – by extension, this is not a simplistic kind of expressionism. The overarching tension in her paintings is located in a dynamic opposition of presence vs. void, seeing vs. feeling. It is as though her paintings describe a place between forces or events, like a big optical hug, where two arms come to hug you and yet never quite cross over each other to exert any physical pressure or weight. A Lacanian would have a field day with this voided location; a Freudian would go to town with these dynamics of parent and child; a Zen monk would love the underlying implication of emptiness; a slapstick director would go crazy for the way everything is on the verge of falling apart. Newman is a little bit of all of these.” Read more.
Newman’s work is included in “Rhyme, Not Reason,” a group show curated by John Yau at Janet Kurnatowski, Brooklyn, NY. Other artists include Marilyn Lerner, David Rhodes, Sherman Sam, and Karla Wozniak. September 10 – October 10, 2010.