Carly Silverman: Static Motion
The Bee in the Lion
September 12 to December 14, 2018
Brush strokes that elicit a span of time, no matter how brief, should appear with breathless ease; steady is the hand that makes a rushing moment breeze by. Carly Silverman’s blurred images stand in contrast to—and belie the truth of—a bustling metropolis. Her careful palette of soft hues sugar-coats the grimiest of New York’s summer days. She skirts illusion for a meditative moment, seeing beauty in a dash for an Uber or a brisk walk with arms full of the day’s purchases. Yet there are other scenes she paints where we can’t be sure of the pace that came before or after that fleeting moment. In Coming Right Back I, a woman wearing soft blue dashes off in heels, purse in hand, and in Woman on the Windowsill II, she sits on a settee, pulling back her long hair. Between the two: who is in a rush, and who remains calm in her moment?
On view in Silverman’s current show at The Bee in the Lion are oil on canvas works that exhibit her special technique: She places cloth between layers of paint to blur her subjects, striking a balance between motion and line; the ethereal and earthly. Mostly devoid of facial lineament, we’re given something different to consider in her approach to portraiture. The narrative becomes hazy, drawing the eye back into abstract details of the soft shapes making up human form. Emerge could be seen without reference to flesh at all. I’m not suggesting the artist’s total deduction of human qualities, rather that it’s possible to see the raw compositional makeup of the canvas before the human form emerges from it.
As paint wisps away from the body, movement is displayed to varying degrees, more dramatically in some pieces than in others. In the golden-hued Autumn Breeze, a blonde woman ties back her hair with swift hands. Here Silverman strikes a balance between the dreamlike and the mundane, giving an everyday task personal significance, like watching a lover get ready the morning after. In spring pinks, Ride’s Here places strong emphasis on thighs, shoulders and hair as it captures another woman slipping into a car, allowing one last look before she speeds away. Blurred lines lead to abstract moments where facial features are excluded or minimally represented, settling the viewer into contemplation of shapes, shifts, lines, and their visual language.
Looking at Silverman’s work as far back as 2013, eyes seem to be neither the focus nor the strongest feature in her paintings. In many of the older works, eyes were minimally rendered or hidden by sunglasses. That said, these newest paintings show a shift towards a sweet spot in her painterly style, and facial features are not included. Contributing to the sweeping effect of her layer, non-descript faces are a natural effect of her brush strokes. Cars, flowers, concrete, and sand are delicately pulled by the brush, transitioning into the next without force; why be so specific with the face when the rest of the canvas feels windswept? Visually tactile properties coincide with techniques that assuage sun-soaked bathers, urban dwellers, and everyday people doing everyday things incognizant of our gaze.
The Bee in the Lion Gallery in Gramercy offers private viewing by appointment only.