How Mary Weatherford’s Abstract Paintings Take Us On Evocative Journeys Within 

Mary Weatherford, the spiritual in art, 2006, Flashe on linen, 111.8 x 121.9 cm. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Mary Weatherford. Photo: Antony Hoffman. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Mary Weatherford, Cosmos, 2020, Flashe on linen, 284.5 x 251.5 x 3.8 cm, signed and dated on back. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Mary Weatherford, Danny, Nasim, Timo, and Mary go to the agave fields, 2019, Flashe and neon on linen, 297.2 x 594.4 x 3.8 cm; dimensions with neon: 297.2 x 623.6 x 8.9 cm. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Mary Weatherford, Nagasaki, 1989, oil on canvas, 208.3 x 208.x cm. Photo: Bill Orcutt. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Mary Weatherford, Portrait of Orson Welles, 1988, enamel on canvas, 152.4 x 304.8 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
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CoBo Social Market News Reports

Renowned American Abstractionist Mary Weatherford creates paintings with immense brushstrokes, varied media and deep social history, capturing internal and isolated experiences, and triggering deeply visceral journeys within.

 

TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery

All over the world, due to safety precautions, social distancing and travel restrictions, there is a pervasive shift to an almost hermetic physical existence. Almost everyone is seeking to avoid crowds, social gatherings are limited or non-existent, and meeting new people is a rare occurrence. This also does not look likely to change in the near future. Living through such a marked lifestyle shift, it is the quiet works of American abstract painter Mary Weatherford which seem to speak volumes, capturing the nuances of our internal and isolated experiences.

Merely gazing upon her brushwork in the aptly titled and evocative the spiritual in art (2006) brings to mind the Italian Renaissance noblewomen sent to convents because their families could not afford to pay the exorbitant wedding dowries of the time. They too had to adapt to a life of social restrictions within limited physical spaces that was not their choosing. This connection between Weatherford’s paintings and the monastic, spiritual lives of the past may seem arbitrary at first glance, but it is perhaps not so surprising since the artist was born to an Episcopalian priest and a historian in Ojai, California, in 1963.

 

Mary Weatherford, the spiritual in art, 2006, Flashe on linen, 111.8 x 121.9 cm. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Mary Weatherford. Photo: Antony Hoffman. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

 

The Los Angeles-based artist’s latest paintings continue this confluence of history and a visceral sense of a particular space bordering on the cosmic. “Train Yards,” the title of the exhibition and series of works on show from 22 September at Gagosian at Grosvenor Hill, London, presents entirely black paintings, visually capturing the “grand mythology of railway travel” including the night views and train noises.

According to Weatherford, “In my series, the painting Heaven Going By (2020) looks like the Milky Way, the stars in the sky. It has no neon in it. It’s a dark night. But it also looks like when headlights shine on falling snow…I try to create works that reproduce an experience. I really made them to imagine myself being in a certain place.”

“This exhibition is about many things: freedom and travel, as well as the dark side of history. But the works aren’t specific illustrations; I’m trying to paint mystery,” she added.

 

Mary Weatherford, Cosmos, 2020, Flashe on linen, 284.5 x 251.5 x 3.8 cm, signed and dated on back. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Mary Weatherford, Danny, Nasim, Timo, and Mary go to the agave fields, 2019, Flashe and neon on linen, 297.2 x 594.4 x 3.8 cm; dimensions with neon: 297.2 x 623.6 x 8.9 cm. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

 

While Weatherford is no stranger to the landscape genre and exploring social histories of California, this new celestial series is an abrupt turn away from artworks created over the last decade when she used neon to create unique cityscapes. For example, with the painting Danny, Nasim, Timo and Mary go to the agave fields (2019), inspired by an evening drive, Weatherford used matte water-based vinyl paint in a mostly cool palette, expressive yet effortless brushwork and a neon rod screwed directly into the canvas at mid-level. The electrical cords draped down to the floor, along with the artificial lighting emitting from the rod, brings both a three dimensionality and a sense of otherworldliness to the artwork.

In fact, Weatherford who has exhibited in numerous survey shows at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2017); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); and PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (1992), has always been seen as pushing the boundaries of abstraction ever since her career began in the 1980s.

 

Mary Weatherford, Nagasaki, 1989, oil on canvas, 208.3 x 208.x cm. Photo: Bill Orcutt. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
Mary Weatherford, Portrait of Orson Welles, 1988, enamel on canvas, 152.4 x 304.8 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

 

The artist herself does not believe she creates abstract paintings, because the bulk of her work almost always indicates something beyond itself. At most, Weatherford considers the concentric circle paintings she created in the ’80s and ’90s as possibly abstract because they do not allude to anything outside of their imagery. However, even with those early artworks, such as Nagasaki (1989) and Portrait of Orson Welles (1988), the titles allude to heavy historical narratives.

It is this very nature of abstraction reflective of history and even the spiritual that probably propelled her art everywhere in recent years. Her paintings, which are in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London, was also shown earlier this year in “Into Space and Time” and “The Japan Drawings,” two of Los Angeles-based gallery David Kordansky’s two online viewing rooms.

Perhaps Weatherford’s recent popularity could also be explained by her uncanny ability to fill the viewer’s mind with past memories and visages of places and people unbeknownst through her paintings. The brushstrokes and amalgamation of colours tug you inevitably from your immediate reality, even as you remain in the same place physically, and suddenly, you are taking an evocative voyage inward.

 

 

 
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