David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to present Mountains Mud Prisms Air, an exhibition of new paintings by Mary Weatherford that will include her largest works to date, as well as paintings both with and without neon tubing. Occupying the gallery’s north and south exhibition spaces, the show will be on view November 13, 2021 – January 8, 2022. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, November 13 from 6 – 8 PM.
Following on the heels of Canyon–Daisy–Eden, a 2020 mid-career retrospective organized by the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College and recently on view at SITE Santa Fe, as well as a major exhibition in 2020-21 at the Aspen Art Museum, Mountains Mud Prisms Air finds Weatherford expanding the boundaries of her vision on all fronts. Every element of the painting process has been considered and challenged, with support, scale, format, physicality, color, and content subject to reinvention and reimagination.
Notable in this regard are the monumental, mural-sized works that anchor the show, and that have been executed on seamless pieces of Belgian linen produced on a specialized loom commissioned by the artist. Weatherford uses this vast support and swooping brushwork to generate fields of high-key color brushwork informed by recent trips to Hawaii. Encounters with the islands’ weather, light, flora, fauna, and geology animate all of the paintings in the exhibition as well as its title, which hints at the broad array of sensorial and poetic perceptions Weatherford navigates as she brings each composition from experiential intuition to physical reality.
While Mountains Mud Prisms Air is charged with a sense of place, each picture is an all-over excursion in which the canvas has been explored to the limits of its four edges; there are no horizon lines or other signifiers of traditional spatial orientation. The works are instead indicative of experiences of full-body participation in which sights, sounds, and smells—as well as memories and dreams—constitute a fluid, synesthetic impression of reality. This is what makes Weatherford’s abstraction groundbreaking: time and again she risks the plunge into a chaotic pool of external and internal data, only to surface bearing pictures of reality that are no less faithful for being non-objective, and that communicate their intensities and doubts, their pleasures and perturbations, to a wide range of viewers.
The neon tubes that have characterized Weatherford’s work for the last decade appear on some of the canvases included here, often in provocative new permutations, but they are notable for their presence and absence alike. The urgent luminosity of the tubes has migrated into her palette; even the paintings without neon possess newfound clarity and forthrightness of color, reminders that seeing is a bodily phenomenon in which the eyes register palpable energy. Though no black is used in any of the works, such prismatic effects are nonetheless offset by passages rendered in earthy registers that give the brighter colors weight and create the impression that they have grown organically from the metaphorical “soil” of the chromatic spectrum.
Like all of her work, the paintings in Mountains Mud Prisms Air are the results of a multi-faceted process that begins and ends outside the studio but reaches its most intensive phases within it. Working on the floor, Weatherford lays down pools of pigment and medium that in turn become sites for expressive mark-making. She circles the canvases, moving across them as the evolving compositions require, placing herself amidst their visual rhythms and textures in bracingly real terms. Painting, like the oceans or forests of Hawaii, provides limitless opportunities for immersion.
The exhibition features small-, medium-, and large-scale canvases in horizontal, vertical, and square formats, making it one of the most varied presentations of Weatherford’s career. This gives her the freedom to experiment with the possibilities inherent to both spaciousness and compression, and to observe how several hues can coexist in a single picture plane without one exerting dominance over the others. A teeming sense of multiplicity permeates the show as a whole. It filters through to the titles of the paintings, which Weatherford invests with descriptors and details that encompass the fecund vitality of the Hawaiian natural world. The titles are no less material than the pigments, supports, neon tubing, and fixtures with which the works are constructed. They contribute to the poetry that suffuses the show like a living spirit, forging connections to painting’s past by emphasizing its present, and seeding its future with openness and wonder.
Mary Weatherford (b. 1963, Ojai, California) was recently the subject of a survey exhibition, Canyon–Daisy–Eden, which originated at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (2020), and traveled to SITE Santa Fe (2021). A solo exhibition of Weatherford’s neon paintings was also held at the Aspen Art Museum in 2020. In addition, she has presented solo shows at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California (2014); Todd Madigan Gallery, California State University at Bakersfield, California (2012); and LAXART, Los Angeles (2012). Recent group exhibitions include Aftereffect: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Painting, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2019); Feel the Sun in Your Mouth: Recent Acquisitions, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2019); Between Two Worlds: Art of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2017); NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015); Pretty Raw: After and Around Helen Frankenthaler, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (2015); and The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014). Her work features in the permanent collections of many institutions, among them the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Brooklyn Museum, New York; K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 2019, Lund Humphries published an in-depth monograph surveying the artist's oeuvre. Weatherford lives and works in Los Angeles.