I have this goal which is to paint the nature of a tree, how it grows, how the limbs extend outward and upward… The trees have more volume and the experience of the painting is closer to what I see when I work. In this way, abstraction feels more real than depiction… So when I get caught in too much realistic rendering of the leaves or the limbs, I catch myself and say ‘OK. Now go at this in a more physical way, push what you want back and pull what you want forward and forget about the detail… the most important thing I want is to have this space that you enter and then come back to the surface after you enter it… no matter how real you make a tree, it’s not a real tree. It’s a painting of a tree.
Sylvia Plimack Mangold (Plimack Mangold, unpublished journal, Winter, 1995, as quoted in Sylvia Plimack Mangold: Landscape and Trees, Cheryl Brutvan, Norton Museum of Art, 2012)
Krakow Witkin Gallery proudly announces “Sylvia Plimack Mangold: The Pin Oak, 1985-2015.” The show, with the broad themes of change, growth and repetition, presents watercolors and etchings that all involve just one tree, a Pin Oak, as studied on the artist’s property in mid-state New York over a thirty year period.
Plimack Mangold described her process this way:
“Here you are forced to look at form in ways that retain the preciseness of the subject… looking anew at what is so commonplace—habitual looking—is a hindrance. I work as if the brush were a scalpel, dissecting and repairing—over and over—trying to forget the conventions of vision so that this tree becomes a great sculptural piece rising above itself to become what it isn’t.” (handwritten note, ca. May—July, 1991, Sylvia Plimack Mangold archive, Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University, as quoted in Sylvia Plimack Mangold: Works on Paper, 1968-1991, Ellen D’Oench and Hilarie Faberman, Wesleyan University, 1992)
When looking at the details in one of Plimack Mangold’s works, a viewer is confronted with the materiality of the ink, graphite or paint, as well as the flat plane and texture(s) of the paper. The artist has left evidence of her actions (obvious and subtle additions, as well as subtractions) so as to create a balanced experience of decisions, processes and illusions. Surface and depth, nature and geometry, planned and spontaneous, as well as both a sense of timelessness and being of a specific moment are all considered equally, creating a dynamic relationship among the tree, artist, artwork and viewer.
Of the same generation as serial-based artists On Kawara and Roman Opalka, yet engaged with the expressive qualities of gesture, Plimack Mangold explores the realities of life: circularity, contradiction, growth, linearity, loss, process, opposition and the expansive opportunities that come from repetition.
This show occurs with inspiration and support from the following generous and talented folks: Brooke Alexander, Ted Bonin, Cheryl Brutvan, Puffin D’Oench, Ann Finholt, Helen Molesworth, John Paoletti, Doris Simmelink, Annemarie and Gianfranco Verna and, most importantly, Sylvia Plimack Mangold. Many thanks to them all.
Summer is all the stages of life and death
Winter is the dormant time
Green is all the tones from naples yellow to cobalt blue
Grass is all the tones from hay to sky
White is all the forms from paint to snow
(from snow to sky?)
and life is all the interruptions from morning to night
Sylvia Plimack Mangold (Plimack Mangold, unpublished journal, July 13, 1977, as quoted in The Paintings of Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Cheryl Brutvan, Albright-Knox, 1994)