Saturday, January 04, 2014

Snyder, Joan: The writing on the wall

Joan SnyderYellow Was Blue (2013); 48" x 48"

Joan Snyder paints bulletins. Raw, brave, savage, savagely elegant paintings as bulletins. They pulse with color and paint and messages and signs and clues and musings  and poetry and humanity and promises. They flash in all directions and at the same time nail down a place, a moment, a crossroads, a confluence that is the thing that painting can still do, where touch and voice and memory and vision and thoughts and feelings and dreams can come together. Stick together. Stuck together. With paint. 

You can see it in her new painting: Yellow Was Blue (2013. 48" x 48"): a canvas at times scorched, singed, burned by fire. Consumed by fire. On fire. Where from the flames and ashes, where buried deep, where sinew and blood cry out, where life like pigment is ground and mixed to become the stuff of paint that gets scraped and pawed and smeared and brushed and washed and scrawled, and then rises, and catches the air, and the wind, and the light, and fills with life and voice, and then smiles and shines on us all.

Joan Snyder; Roses & Weeds (2013) 48" x 114"

And this is understood. Joan Snyder's paintings are what matters to her. What is going on with her. What is going on. These are the things that get pinned to her canvasses. With paint. With color and shape and paint. With color and shape and texture and mark and paint. Joan Snyder takes art personally. Like no one else. Like truth is beauty. It defines her, and her work, and if it is what you're looking for, she is where you go, where everyone goes. 

When Joan Snyder has a show, people come together. They drop whatever they are doing and join groups converging and answering some call. Like a pilgrimage. Converging. Like Flash mobs. Converging. They go to see what's new, of course, but more than that they go to get their fix. Paint like heroin. Fitting. For St Joan. St Joan the heroine. Her legions bleed for her work in the same way that her work bleeds. For them.

If you didn't know better you might think that Joan Snyder had been a disciple of Hans Hofmann. If you didn't know better. Something about boxes of color coalescing and floating over a sea of unreasoned paint. But that would be wrong. Hofmann was nothing if not instructional. Snyder is not, at least not in that way. Not formally. She would never presume. She knows there is poison and prison there, and the world has enough of both. No, quite the opposite, if Hofmann was the teacher, Snyder is the healer. The liberator. She would never say so of course, but everyone knows the unspoken truth. Joan Snyder's paintings bleed for us all. 

What can you say about her color, because you can't separate it from her paintings, but there it is. Color. Like you've never seen before. That goes inside you like fresh squeezed orange juice, that every cell in your body absorbs like a dying breath. Feeds on like a dying breath. Everyone comes poor to Joan Snyder's color and goes away rich! Color that rifles its way into our memory, memory of epiphanies past. Places and times resurrected, infused with new life, alive again! And so generously as well, as though she was made of paint!

Proserpina, 2013. oil, acrylic, paper mach, poppies,
 rice paper, dirt, charcoal. 48" x 120"

Another recent painting, Proserpina (2013), tells the story. We bask in its color like a field of wildflowers, like an expanse of Monet. Expansive Monet. We are nurtured by it. By its nature. We could live for days in it without food or water because it would feed us, be enough for us. Its energy would become our energy. Its passion would become our passion. Its beliefs become everything we believe. We lie down in these paintings. We lose ourselves in them. 

I won't pretend or presume to say what Joan Snyder's paintings are about. They are all different because they are about life and living; they are all the same because they are all her and hers. She is all things: creator, director, narrator, actor, and finally audience, as this is writing on the wall as journal, letter home, letter to oneself.

I will venture, however, that the work is supremely intelligent. Considered with great intelligence. Painted with great intelligence and wisdom. All I know is that jets are also the product of great intelligence, but I just fly in them, and look out the window. Joan Snyder's paintings are something we see that we feel immediately. The language of love. That is what we hear. The language of feeling. So close to the bone. It is unmistakable to us. Perhaps we all hear something different, but then I don't get it. I have heard art historians talk about Renoir nudes and never once mention flesh. They are all flesh. Joan Snyder's paintings are all emotion in the same way. The way Turner was all light. Of course some of the most emotional people I have ever known kept it under wraps. Pinned down. Like to a bulletin board.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, 2014

Reposted on Berkshire Fine Arts


Anonymous said...

Addison, this is how I feel about Joan's work. You have captured it. Many people can't see this but those who do, love her work, as you say.

Marie Foley

Anonymous said...

Addison – It’s like a blazing comet: reading it is like looking at Joan’s paintings. That is what great art writing should do. You brought the heat. Congratulations. - John Baker

Anonymous said...

You really went out on a limb with her to where she is and probably revealed more about her than she is willing to admit.Her work is all over the place in a good way as is our lives if we really look at ourselves, honestly, as you did. It sure is a relief after reading all the stuff about the hipsters coming out of Brookliyn with their cool veneers.

I am glad you wrote it. It does take several reads to get into the mood of the piece.It is not your safe John Yau criticism that you just sit down to read and nod your head in agreement or disagreement. It mimics her paintings, becomes more of a wild poem in the style of Allen Ginsberg.

Martin Mugar

Anonymous said...


Arnold Steinhardt

Anonymous said...

The paintings are Absolutely beautiful, deeply felt and simply alone. Not many artists reach the level that Joan does. Most people are unwilling to go where Joan goes - that is what makes her work so very great. And, your insight is certainly a great entry. Thank you Addison and thank you Joan. Betty Cuningham

Anonymous said...

She is such an interesting painter! Gina Werfel

Anonymous said...

Addison. I loved it--you really captured what her work means to me. I've always been a big fan.-Janice McQuaid