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Defying Gravity

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Anne Neely’s paintings get corporeal as images ascend of the canvas

The painter Anne Neely might very well agree with a quote from Joan Mitchell, posted with that artist’s work at a Whitney retrospective, who, when asked about composition, replied, “It goes up.”

Working in a hierarchical manner, the bottom half of Neely’s canvases in her current show are tenuous, illusionistic landscapes that create the effect of deep skies. But getting from flesh to spirit is never easy, and it is in the metaphoric transitional spaces in the middle of her paintings where her glyphs and blocks of color become visualizations of the lift-off, release and unification.

Clustered at the top of her work is the place reserved for vibrant, painterly, quilty balloons, as if dreams of paintings yet to be realized. It’s a great mix where the fleshy paint handling of an artist like Joan Snyder meets the pulpy details of a Stettheimer or the feminist iconographer Miriam Shapiro.

Maybe because of the scale, four small works in the back room clearly demonstrate the atmospherics of Neely’s approach. “Charted, “Things that Linger” and “Clearing” have the feeling of tracking entire abstract weather patterns rather than just cloud formations. “Distilled,” a study for the larger “An Opening,” dwells in the realm of the painted spaces of Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Parks” and Matisse’s Notre Dame cityscapes.

In several of the other large works, in particular “City Limits,” “Arc” and “Origins,” the visual space gets clotted up with incidentals and the overall effect is lost. Where this doesn’t happen, in works like “Romance of the Spider,” the created light permeates and glows. Rich, frothy, and playful, “Romance,” presents a bright block of keyed-up yellow held aloft by a rich layer of pink and rose with a crimson thread-like detailing that keeps the whole thing from floating away.

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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