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Candy Le Sueur: Reflections at Panepinto Galleries


Dream pop is all over the year-end top ten lists: blurry, gauzy, beautiful and melancholy, feminine, slow-paced, maybe a little intoxicated. That’s been the sound of 2019, and although there aren’t all that many Hudson County musicians who play dream pop, there’s a remarkable visual analog hanging in Paulus Hook. 

Candy Le Sueur’s “Reflections” exhibition features abstract expressionist oil paintings that feel like hallucinations. Figuration is dispensed with, in favor of broad washes of color on (usually) large canvases. Everything looks like a beach, or an ocean, or a cloud blurring the horizon line between the beach and the ocean, or a sunrise gracing the surface of the sea. Or perhaps none of it is meant to resemble anything in particular: It’s just a play of pigments and curved strokes, committed to the work with wonder and vigor but with no evident malice. No people or animals are depicted or suggested. Life for Le Sueur is but a dream, and her show is a solitary daylight idyll. 

It would be inaccurate to call “Reflections” anxiety free. There’s turbulence in the gray scribbles of paint that lurk in the clouded corners of her otherwise luminous pieces. If Le Sueur’s work is a response to the natural world, these aren’t perfect June days she’s depicting. Yet the fear of the inhospitable wilderness that drives so much American nature painting is completely absent. This painter is not worried about natural forces. She’s floating through them as a placid observer, one animated by candor but willing to drift through scenes of her own invention, taken by the wind like a kite. “Reflections” is, above all, accommodating — a generous bestowal of light. There’s not much agitation here, and no discernible argument is getting made. Hers is art that is content to leave the viewer be. It’s hard to believe that Le Sueur is from cantankerous, confrontational old Jersey City.

But she is indeed a Hudson County artist and an active one.  She’s shown her work at Drawing Rooms, the Windows on Columbus, Novado Gallery, the Santorelli Gallery in Hoboken, and other area spaces. “Reflections” is about as far east in town as you can go without splashing into the river: The show occupies the broad white wall spaces of Panepinto Galleries at 70 Hudson St., one of those two squat and squarish buildings on the waterfront boardwalk from which the smell of big money wafts. The members of the Panepinto clan are major players in local real estate: They’re responsible for the Marriott by the Grove Street PATH Station, 3 Journal Square, and nearly all of the imposing new glass and concrete residential towers on Columbus Drive; Stefania Panepinto, the operator of the Gallery, is involved in the family business.

Spear Street Capital, the national real estate investment firm that owns 70 Hudson, is listed as one of the sponsors of “Reflections.” Some local exhibitions go out of their way to disguise the mercantile nature of the art world. This is not one of those shows.

Panepinto Galleries specializes in work that a visitor might encounter at a Panepinto-made hotel or a building like it: art designed to soothe the jangled nerves of business travelers as they prepares for a meeting. The analgesic quality of Candy Le Sueur’s work does put it into that category. These paintings might fit neatly behind the front desk of a skyscraper’s atrium — a slice of natural wildness, taken, tamed, and framed by professional buyers. The first floor of 70 Hudson St. is just that sort of corporate space, and the pieces in “Reflections” do assimilate themselves into the tickertape rhythms of their surroundings with unnerving ease. That’s not exactly Le Sueur’s fault. Because of its inherent ambiguity, abstract expressionism has become the preferred style for purchasers at hotels and financial services companies. 

70 Hudson is a glass house, and I don’t mean to throw stones at the operation or its aesthetic priorities. The building might be imposing, but the gallery keeps some of the most accommodating — and democratizing — hours in town. It’s open to the public every weekday from 9 a.m until 6 p.m.  

Like every artist who is good at this style — and this painter certainly is skilled — Le Sueur’s canvases have a hypnagogic effect. Some of the wavy lines of paint are short and blunt, others are broad and borderline chaotic, but all of them feel like visual traces left by elegant movements of human hands and wrists, a somatic charm drawing bathers from the shallows into deeper waters. Le Seuer’s pieces give the impression that they were each completed during a single lengthy reverie. She carries that sense of unity from piece to piece, and it’s particularly impressive when she executes that vision on a large scale. In “Day Dreaming 3,” a warm smear of egg-yolk yellow enlivens an otherwise stony gray field; it could be a sunrise over a rocky coast, and it feels as complete a portrait as any landscape photograph might be. Often any sense of horizontality is deliberately lost as strokes swirl every which way. Yet this is not disorienting art. There is something about Le Sueur’s work that anchors the viewer: Magnetic north is always discernible. All of these paintings look like places (albeit lonely ones). Sometimes, they’re even places in the sky.

The most impressive part of this lovely exhibition is a wall full of haunted watercolors, a departure for the artist, we’re told. Stare at these, too, and they’re likely take on the appearance of distant shores, glaciers, vast lakes and huge swirly heavens. Yet the flatness of the watercolor medium and the smallness of each paper makes these dream landscapes feel stark, shadowed, and emotionally pained in a way that Le Sueur’s oil paintings never suggest. Art that reflects dreams, whether dream pop or dream painting or hallucinatory cinema can evaporate once the audience disengages; dreams after all are usually consequence free. But a few linger well into daylight. These watercolors do. They suggest a way forward for an artist as sure-footed as any in town.

 

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Art Review: Slow Art


So how long does it take you to see an art show, anyway? Do you linger in front of each canvas, or do you jet through the exhibition with a tail wind? Since there’s no clock at a gallery presentation, you’re free to set your own pace. But if it’s a really engaging experience, the art has a way of establishing its own rhythm—and if you listen carefully, you may slip into time with the beat.

The participants in the “Slow Art” show at the Village West Gallery (331 Newark Avenue) have done quite a bit of thinking about time and speed and the peculiar velocity of perception. This lovely, temperate, occasionally apprehensive show introduces those reflections politely. That stands to reason: Slow art ought to be soft-spoken.

The artists approach the theme with the quiet reverence it deserves. Painter Anki King represents time as a dark substance, something slippery as oil, seeping through interlaced fingers at the end of a pair of frail and ghostly arms. In “Gather,” the painting that welcomes visitors to the gallery, time threatens to escape from the clutches of its possessor in a great black rush. Other works in the show cushion that same anxiety through repetition. Megan Klim’s dense folds of gauze, Patricia Cazorla and Nancy Salerme’s shaded, near-oceanic waves of blue ink, Jimbo Blachly’s strata of thin horizonal lines in watercolor, and co-curator and gallery owner Robinson Holloway’s elaborately decorated sofa: These artworks radiate diligence, accomplishment, time logged, a tough job well done. Meticulousness, they seem to suggest, is a response to the tick of the clock. If the artist can get properly lost in her task, she might be able to still those hands.

“Slow Art” asks the viewer to pause and reflect, respect the inner rhythms of the works on view, and indulge in the luxury of contemplation. But if you want to follow the call of these works and others like them, you’ll have to make an appointment to see the exhibition. The Village West Gallery—which is itself an elegant space and one that prompts quiet reflection—doubles as the ground floor of Robinson Holloway’s home. (Ms. Holloway’s cats are part of the permanent collection here.) It’s as big and bright as many of the dedicated exhibition spaces downtown, and it demonstrates again that anybody with the taste, a coherent aesthetic sensibility, and a few wide, white walls can put on a show worth seeing.

Holloway and her co-curator Diana Schmertz have attracted twenty artists to the “Slow Art” show, which will be on view until December 6. That’s a “JC Friday,” and the gallery will be open for a reception that night.

If you’re a Downtown resident or a rock fan, there’s a decent chance you’ve stumbled upon a bit of this exhibition already. Village West is just a stone’s throw from White Eagle Hall, and concertgoers waiting in line may have noticed David Baskin’s assortment of 160 oval-shaped containers in the gallery’s street-facing window. “Dove Bottles” turns the front of the house into a great abacus: The bottles are candy colored and easy to count, and if you surrender to the piece (recommended), you’re likely to find some intriguing patterns amidst the plastic. Like much of “Slow Art,” Baskin’s installation is a quiet charmer—it’s quirky and homespun, but it isn’t overly ingratiating, and it doesn’t lead with cleverness. The same might be said for Sharela Bonfield’s hand-embroidered “selfies” rendered on ten inch pieces of felt. These images of the artist, assembled stitch by sedulous stitch, glow with quotidian beauty.

Selfie by Sharela Bonfield

Dove Bottles by David Baskin

They’re also a commentary on the immediacy of digital reproduction and a challenge to those who might call art-making a waste of time and energy. Yes, says Ms. Bonfield, I will indeed take three months to a year to capture my image in thread; you go ahead and settle for your crude and cold assembly of pixels. The artist’s subtle defiance is a figure for the entire show and a shorthand version of its theme. Some worthwhile effects can only be produced slowly, and certain powerfully expressive mediums should not be overlooked in the rush to make an immediate impression.

Other works in the show practically demand close reading. A painting like Alexis Duque’s stuffed and teetering “Truck” can’t be appreciated at a single glance. The artist has simply loaded too much detail onto the canvas: rooms upon rooms and houses upon houses like a trash-compacted Santorini. He’s given the viewer twisting staircases to navigate and windows to peer into and objects crammed into every corner, and he’s put the whole thing on a pair of wheels. Where is this rolling citadel headed, and who are its inhabitants? How fast is it traveling? Does it move at the speed of the viewer’s apprehension?

Slow art, by definition, lacks the urgency we’ve come to expect from modern visual entertainment, and it does run the risk of offering comfort at a time in history when nobody ought to be comfortable. Joshua Mintz’s “Untitled (Bunker),” a piece that’s simultaneously adorable and terrifying, plays with ideas of ease, intimacy, welcome, and the all-too-seductive power of relaxation. This sculpture is a tiny replica of a rumpled couch in suburban-den green, with cushions in a slept-on mess, and the seat sagging treacherously in the middle. There’s even a pair of well-worn miniature sneakers on the floor. Here is the sofa as the hungry eater of hours: a dangerous place, a lure to the tired and unwary.

My favorite piece in the show confronts the notion of misspent time head on. On a rough sheet of cotton and wool paper, Jeanne Heifetz has drawn a partial globe of small interlocking quadrilateral shapes, each one distinguished from its immediate neighbors by minute differences in ink color and shading. It’s all gorgeous and painstaking and viewed from one uncharitable angle completely purposeless. She’s named her work Mottainai after the famous Japanese admonition against waste. Certainly it is impractical to spend our time like this—brightening the patterns on the sofa upholstery in house paint, folding and gluing gauze, crosshatching little squares on canvases, assembling hundreds of colored plastic bottles in a Newark Avenue window. But as Anki King’s painting demonstrates, the minutes are going to slip through our fingers no matter how tightly we try to hold them. How better to spend them than in the pursuit of beauty?

Header: Untitled (Bunker) by Joshua Mintz

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