Isaac Abrams | Jennifer Coates | Amie Cunat | John de Fazio | Angela Dufresne | Martha Edelheit | Inka Essenhigh | J.A Feng | Elliott Green | Mimi Gross | Elizabeth Hazan | Sheila Isham | Jacaeber Kastor | Judith Linhares | JJ Manford | Joseph Parker | Suzan Pitt | Lisa Sanditz | Thomas Sills | Olga Spiegel | Bob Thompson | Fred Tomaselli | Eugene von Bruenchenhein | Peter Williams | Agatha Wojciechowsky | Saya Woolfalk
Psychedelic Landscape is inspired by a current in the art world: a desire for dreamscapes, invented topographies, and utopian visions of the environment. As the San Francisco-based ceramic artist John de Fazio noted, “Psychedelics create optimism in dark times.” The exhibition includes a cross-generational group of more than 20 artists, from estates to young New York-area painters like Amie Cunat and J.A Feng. Cunat has conceived a site-specific painting installation that extends the show’s subject onto the gallery’s walls, while Feng has contributed a recent oil on canvas that is both organic and uncanny in nature.
The landscapes in this exhibition utilize a hallucinogenic color palette and depict acid-trip-like visions. They are not always idealistic; they also reflect frightening and painful realities. Raised in Nyack, Peter Williams—whose estate Eric Firestone Gallery now represents, and whose work the gallery is presenting for the first time in New York City—explored the beauty and horror of Black life in America. His work is defined by delirious color, complex orchestrations of figuration, and abstract patterning. Desegregation (2020) shows a mindscape/landscape divided into quadrants; a body swimming against the current as star forms burst at the top.
Suzan Pitt, the Kansas City-born painter and pioneer animator who is especially known for her film Asparagus (1979), explores fantastical gardens that blossom out of longing and desire. La Artista (2001) is her only known self-portrait. It shows the artist lying in a coffin, cigarette and paint brushes in hand, a magic garden generating from the cloud of smoke.
In other canvases, like those of Thomas Sills (who hailed from Castalia, North Carolina) and Elliott Green (who was born in Detroit), an abstracted psychedelic landscape emerges from an intuitive, unconscious working method. Now represented by Eric Firestone Gallery, Sheila Isham conceived her acerbic storm of color, #8 Sagaponack (1972), by scavenging seaweed and sponges from her beachy surroundings in the Hamptons. She held up these organic substances against canvas, using an airbrush to spray acrylic paint around them. Linked to the 1960s and ‘70s counterculture of the California Bay Area, Judith Linhares has cultivated the practice of lucid dreaming, which informs her painting and a trust in the process. Her recent work is particularly radiant and joyful: working women and invented animals populate landscapes in which bands of sunrays assert their power.
The exhibition also touches on the history of psychedelic art, as envisioned by a few self-taught artists in New York City. Isaac Abrams predicted a new art reflecting the intensity of psychedelic experience. He met with the famed American psychologist Timothy Leary and, with Leary’s guidance, opened the Coda Gallery in 1965 to present this genre. Crossover (1971) by Olga Spiegel, who showed with the East Village Psychedelic Solution gallery, will be on view. The work of legendary Milwaukee-based self-taught artist Eugene Von Bruenchenhein explore the meeting point of celestial dreamscapes and menacing, atomic mushroom clouds.
Figurative expressionist Bob Thompson from Louisville reconfigured art historical and religious motifs into enigmatic countrysides and chromatically intense scenes that suggest themes of human collectivity and struggle. Angela Dufresne reimagines the landscapes of Courbet or van Ruisdael as an upstate New York post-apocalyptic flood party, with half-naked women fishing off the rocks while a great egret stands guard. Dufresne says of her work, “I agree with André Breton—queer is about finding that skewed, other iteration of things that defy the mythical.”
Psychedelic Landscape reflects Eric Firestone Gallery’s mission to bring together past and present modes of expression—illuminating underrecognized yet highly significant artists and genres from across the postwar and contemporary eras.
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