Bowery Gallery:  Lynn Kotula: Animated Conversations & Tony Serio: Hudson River Landscapes


Lynn Kotula
A Lot of Squash
and Eggplants, One Huge

oil on canvas
16 x 32 inches

Tony Serio
Bike Path and Overpass
oil on linen
28 x 62 inches

In the modern age, Realism comes in every flavor from Magic Realism to Photorealism. Perhaps the most popular notion of realism of all, globally, is a kind of svelte Impressionism affording a poetic interpretation as accessible as the subject itself. Too often lost in the shuffle is the realism of masters such as Chardin, Corot and Bonnard, who characterized their subjects not just through technique or style, but through the more complex, compositional powers of color and line.

Two concurrent exhibitions at Bowery Gallery explore just such possibilities, while tackling very different subjects; Tony Serio explores the expansive, weather-inflected spaces of landscape, and Lynn Kotula the intimate, quieted realm of still life. Their paintings, however, share a decided taste for painterly, rhythmic compositions.

Serio’s thirteen canvases explore a theme that could become hackneyed in lesser hands: sun-splashed views of parks lining the Hudson River, complete with bicyclists, picnickers and glimpses of the George Washington Bridge. In a sense, these are all portraits of sunlight. The physical forms of the large painting “Bike Path and Overpass” are provided by nature herself, in the guise of a curving overhead highway and ranging silhouette of trees. But Serio emphasizes their re-divisions by the force of sunlight, giving weight with his color to the primal opposition of lit and shadowed zones. Among the many objects bridging this division is the bicycle path, which turns evocatively from a sturdy, humming ochre to a deep, absorbent violet.

Serio’s most consistent strength lies in such evocations of light–in, for instance, the density of a shadowed, striding figure, crisply silhouetted by the sunlit grass beyond, in “Bike Path and Overpass,” or the way reflected light gives a dark glimmer to the locally intense colors of shadowed figures in “Hudson Shoreline and Highway.” Repeatedly, one finds instances of this natural paradox by which white forms take on mysteriously deep casts– deep purplish-grays and subdued, medium-blues–in shade.

A chain of such paradoxes galvanizes my favorite painting, “Hudson River View Under Highway.” The painting’s broader rhythms enlarge upon the sturdy remoteness of a central tree molded by light and dark greens; the frame of an overhead highway powerfully mediates the distance between us and the tree, so that one progresses, step by step, from shadowed foreground, through bright expansion of air, to the tree’s distant solitude. As with Bonnard, shifts of space and scale reveal not just topography, but also the character of the objects within.  

In fourteen still life paintings, Lynn Kotula, too, finds a deeper reality in vital forms. Minuets between fruit, vegetables and tableware capture the interior lives of these ostensibly inanimate objects. The arc of an eggplant just meets the light-carved disk of a pattypan squash in “Yellow Squash, Lemon, Eggplant on Yellow Cloth,” with a tiny note of intense yellow punctuating the gap between; a fold of cloth resolutely departs above. In “Summer Squash and Indian Measuring Pitcher, NYC,” the upturned disk of another squash draws the eye down to its resting place among fabric folds, while the curve of an adjacent eggplant expands deliciously, emphatically above.

Chardin’s shelf-level viewpoint allowed a particularly vigorous opposition between rising objects and receding supporting plane. But like Cézanne, Kotula picks a higher and more complicating viewpoint, without allowing herself Cézanne’s expedient–and vitalizing–jogging of table edges. Occasionally her table becomes, consequently, simply a pliable foil around the other objects. This isn’t true, however, of “A Lot of Squash and Eggplants, One Huge,” in which the busy assembly of objects is neatly corralled by the angling lunge of the tabletop. Nor does this apply to “Bottle Gourd, Eggplants, Pattypan with Knife,” a particularly tight composition in which various objects orbit, with compact deliberation, two small, brilliantly modeled eggplants. Best of all is “Bok Choy, Shell, Eggplant,” in which one head of bok choy darts upwards and away, and another twists downward–a plate’s arc measuring out the interval in-between–with three small eggplant neatly pacing their diverging gestures. The painting is executed with exceptional freedom of technique; coincidentally or not, it also captures especially vividly the independent life of its elements.

Bowery Gallery, Oct 30 - Nov 24, 2012
530 W 25th St, New York NY 10001
646-230-6655 · www.bowerygallery.org