Sundaram Tagore Chelsea is pleased to present Susan Weil: Now and Then, an exhibition of new sculptural paintings and drawings alongside a selection of mixed-media works from past series that combine figurative illustration and photography with explorations of movement, time and space.
Susan Weil is best known for her fearless experimentation with new techniques and use of unconventional materials, both of which have been consistent themes throughout her storied sixty-year career. Weil creates dynamic, multi-dimensional works that compel the viewer to contemplate numerous perspectives at once. She often fractures the picture plane, deconstructing and reconstructing images using collage, blueprints, wood, acrylic and paint on recycled canvas.
For this exhibition, the New York-based artist has produced new work, including three engraved spatial pieces that highlight her love of drawing. Always willing to try new mediums, she uses malleable poplar plywood, bent and formed to breathe movement and dimensionality into a trio of refined line drawings. Once shaped, these sculptural works come alive, seemingly twisting and pulling free from the wall that holds them.
Leftovers (2015), inspired by The Last Supper, pays homage to Leonardo da Vinci. Here, Weil takes one of the most iconic paintings in history, strips it down and injects her own visual vocabulary, focusing on the Apostle’s hands (hands are a recurring theme in her work), as well as the image's innovative use of perspective. Weil also adds an element of playfulness, as she says of her 'collaboration' with the master painter: 'He brought the supper and I made the leftovers.'
Many of the earlier works in the show reference perennial themes in Weil’s practice, including nature, literature and her own personal history. In Dream (2008), she reconfigures various used canvases and found bits of fabric into a singular composition with different histories that are seamlessly threaded together by paint and collage. The painting also echoes the staccato, rhythmic qualities of poetic verse that often find its way into her work.
Collaboration has always been an integral part of Weil’s practice. She was briefly married to the late Robert Rauschenberg, to whom she remained close after separating. The two partnered on several projects, most notably their celebrated blueprint series (1949–1951), which utilised a monoprint technique she had experimented with since childhood. Weil continued to expand on this cyanotype photographic printing process in her later work, including in her collaborations with photographer José Betancourt. The two worked together for more than a decade, producing such works as Spring/Sprung (2009) and Penumbrella (2009). Other works from the series were part of an extensive traveling exhibition in 2014, organised by the Asheville Art Museum, North Carolina.
Susan Weil: Now and Then also includes a selection of the artist’s journals, which have been part of her artistic practice throughout her career. They contain daily entries of thoughts, sketches and her poemumbles, the artist’s unique form of poetic expression that became the subject of an exhibition at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2015.
ABOUT SUSAN WEIL
Coming of age at the centre of the New York School with its eclectic cultural influences and interdisciplinary experimentation, Susan Weil studied under Josef Albers at Black Mountain College. Her peers included Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly. But unlike her contemporaries, Weil has never been afraid to pursue figuration and reference reality, drawing inspiration from nature, literature, photographs and her personal history, embracing both serious and playful elements in her work.
Over the years, she cultivated strong interests in the great modern Irish author James Joyce, the Persian poet Rumi and the pioneering English-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Weil also studied in Paris and has exhibited in Sweden and Germany. Otherwise, however, she says, 'I don’t travel a lot, but I travel in my mind.' She concludes: 'I stand on a Susan spot. The world and the art world shift and change around me. I also deepen and build. It is a special perspective to watch this double cycling.'
In 2015, Susan Weil's work was included in the exhibition Frontiers Reimagined, a Collateral Event of the 56th Venice Biennale. Other notable recent exhibitions include Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957, which premiered in 2015 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and then traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, Columbus. The show was named one of the top ten museum shows of 2016 by the Los Angeles Times. A solo exhibition of her work was recently on view in James Joyce: Shut Your Eyes and See at the Poetry Collection, University of Buffalo, New York.
Weil is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her work is included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; Helsinki Art Museum; and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. In 2010, Skira Editore published Susan Weil: Moving Pictures, a comprehensive monograph documenting her large and diverse body of art, livres d’artiste and poetry.
Press release courtesy Sundaram Tagore Gallery.