Joan Baldwin: Cocoons



It needs to be quiet for the human cocoons to have the time to develop properly. The atmosphere must be warm and supportive. As these pupas become more mature they gain color and move closer to the bassinet, where they’ll each get time to adjust to being unwrapped and exposed, yet still nurtured. For all living creatures there’s magic in the process of birth.

– Joan Baldwin: Cocoons

In a recent conversation with Joan Baldwin, I talked with her about the installation Cocoons, currently in the Center Gallery, a departure from the paintings for which she is known. Below are some thoughts from our observation of the installation.

She sees everything as connected, as part of nature. She makes a leap with this installation by “cross pollinating” the idea of human birth and that of a cocoon, fusing two species. This is a place of quiet, and like the process of human birth, the “babies” here need to adjust to being in the world.

The installation creates an atmosphere of safety and nurturing, of stillness; a time she imagines that the cocoons need to develop, a magical and perhaps a sacred space. The installation is designed sequentially so that as the eye travels towards the bassinet, reading the space, the colors becoming brighter and the shapes larger. They are beautiful and repelling at the same time.

The ideas expressed here developed as the she worked on the piece; the objects she collected became the impetus for the work and this continued until the installation itself was created.

There are of course many connotations invoked here and the artist wants it to be open-ended. One could see a sleeping infant or a dead baby. It is strange to see babies hung upside down and wrapped. However as with all works of art, the viewer has the opportunity to project oneself on to the work and to suspend disbelief if only for a moment.

The exhibit runs through June 1 with a closing reception from 3-5 p.m.

Images: Joan Baldwin, Cocoons, installation view and detail, 2014.






Mary Bucci McCoy: New Paintings


What Am I Looking At?

The questions I always ask when looking at art are these: What am I looking at? What is the physicality of the object (if it is an object)? How do the materials make a leap to some kind of meaning?

In Mary Bucci McCoy’s show New Paintings, I am looking at carefully articulated shapes that hold paint, paint which is allowed to react to the conditions she has set up – calculated circumstances that lead to beautiful “accidents.” What I see is paint in action, the many ways the paint had moved; what I see is the arrested movement. In the space of the gallery, each work is a world unto itself, singular; each is a record of time and a “moment” in time.

Something else I see is the oval shape moving throughout the space of the gallery. It appears as a shape or mark, or sometimes the support for a shape or mark. Dark ovals absorb light, becoming voids; light ones project outwards, becoming mirrors.

I see paintings here that also exist beyond the boundaries of their supports.

For me this work becomes the answer to my questions and the material, the paint, holds multiple meanings. It fulfills what we often ask of art and, in particular, abstraction, that it becomes a locus for our own projections, a way of finding meaning not only in the work that we see, but also in the world at large.

Image: Crux, acrylic on plywood, 9 x 7 x 1″, 2013.












Cate McQuaid’s review in today’s Boston Globe: Shows that paint outside the lines, and one that sticks to the script

Mary Bucci McCoy’s review in today’s Boston Globe along with Jered Sprecher and Lot F Gallery:

Shows that paint outside the lines, and one that sticks to the script

 By Cate McQuaid  Globe Correspondent   April 08, 2014

“Within” from Mary Bucci McCoy’s show “New Paintings,” at Kingston Gallery.

Two refreshing solo painting shows up now in adjacent galleries have much in common, but wander down wildly different paths.

Mary Bucci McCoy, at Kingston Gallery, and Jered Sprecher, at Steven Zevitas Gallery, make mostly small, mostly abstract works. Bucci McCoy’s delicately toned and textured paintings read like haiku: swift, elusive, ripe. Sprecher’s much denser, hotter-toned works display an exuberant virtuosity: He cuts up, sorts, and juggles forms; he layers veils of pigment. Small as his works are (the paintings on linen are 11-by-8 inches), they are deep, whereas Bucci McCoy’s are more wide open.

For the smaller paintings, the artist chopped up photocopies of his pigeon photo and made collages, which he re-created in oil paint. The birds can be discerned in only one of these works, “Pigeons,” in which we see a plump green silhouette, with the fluff of the wing feathers accentuated, but again the image seems incidental to the spark and flow of abstract painterly fireworks: down-rushing smears of gray and yellow, a narrow curtain of hot pink on one side.
Knowing the birds are there, if only in fragments, you might start to look for them. Is that the curve of a breast in “Invention of the Chair”? And maybe the stony face of the cliff along the bottom?

But this painting hinges on the thick, flat bars crossing one another, in black with great gaps of orange, over a changeable orange and red ground. The violently colliding bars have heft, but they vanish. There’s a broad passage of dun in the background at the top, a bland banner. Sky blue brushes lightly over the surface.

Sprecher plays tricks with space and surface; he makes bold marks and dainty ones. There’s so much going on in a relatively small space, it’s as if he’s deftly answering in paint the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Bucci McCoy offers a deep breath. Her painting “Another Grace” is simply a pale peach, near square. When I saw it I sensed vaguely that the corners were receding, and I got up close. The paint along the sides is infinitesimally yellower than it is in the middle. The surface gently puckers and wrinkles, like water in a breeze. A barely perceptible zigzag, perhaps just evidence of the paint drying, saws softly down the right side. Discovering these is like unearthing secrets.

Early in her career, Bucci McCoy worked with ceramics. Her paintings have the tactile quality of clay and the surprises afforded by kiln-fired glazes. “Within” is an oval, like a cameo, in powder blue. It’s matte flat, but the blue rises off the surface in one thick dollop. Below that hovers a blurry white dot, and to the right, a dot of black, veined and glittering like mica. Each of these reveals itself on a largely unsullied plane, little eruptions through a placid surface.

These paintings convey the unlikely combination of patience and spontaneity. Sometimes Bucci McCoy takes action: Her finger makes a deep gully down the center of the pristine white “Channel.” But sometimes it’s also just about seeing how the paint reacts. “Sanctuary” has a ground of tender terra-cotta, perfectly flat. A heady wash of aqua pours in from the upper right, like a wave rushing onto sand. The breathtaking contrasts are many: the colors, the textures, opacity versus mottled transparency, stillness versus movement. This artist achieves all that with startling economy.

Signs to celebrate cursive

“Its Virtue Is Immense: A Pre-Vinylite Tribute to Script Lettering,” a jaunty show at Lot F Gallery, suggests that thanks to dedicated practitioners around the world, the art of hand-painting signs is not dead. It’s on the decline, and has been since vinyl signs came on the scene in the 1980s. But this show isn’t merely about hand painting. It’s a cri de coeur on behalf of handwriting, and in particular cursive, which is being taught less the more technology dominates communication.

“Handwriting Is Handy,” Bob Dewhurst reminds us in one snappy sign. Kenji Nakayama, in “ABC Script,” layers a cursive alphabet in autumnal enamels and variegated gold leaf, which glimmers with coppers and blues. It’s eye-catching, to be sure, but it goes beyond signage into art, with its complex layering of letters.

Nakayama came to Boston from Japan to study at the Butera School of Art, one of the last academic outposts to teach hand-painting signs. It closed two years ago. The work in this show reminds us that there’s something rich in the human touch that can’t be replicated in a prepackaged font.

Mary Bucci McCoy: New Paintings

At: Kingston Gallery,

450 Harrison Ave., through April 27. 617-423-4113,

Jered Sprecher: Half Moon Maker

At: Steven Zevitas Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., 617-778-5265.

Closing date:
May 10

its Virtue is Immense: A Pre-Vinylite Tribute to Script Lettering

At: Lot F Gallery, 145 Pearl St., through April 25, 617-620-8452,


Cate McCuaid’s Critic’s Pick in The Boston Globe: Mary Bucci McCoy, First Friday reception this evening


MARY BUCCI McCOY: NEW PAINTINGS Bucci McCoy’s small paintings hinge on the materiality of the paint, how it flows, how it dries, and how her spontaneous actions impinge upon it. Color matters, but the works are catalyzed by substance. Through April 27. Kingston Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave. 617-423-4113,


Image: Crux, acrylic on plywood, 9 x 7 x 1″, 2013

Another terrific video about painting: Studio Visit: Carrie Moyer

Made in conjunction with her 2013 exhibit at the Tang Museum, Skidmore College

Studio Visit: Carrie Moyer

In her New York City Studio, Carrie Moyer talks about pivotal events in her life that brought her to painting, and the influence history has had in her work.

For the past two decades, Carrie Moyer’s paintings have boldly merged political imagery, abstraction, and unapologetic visual pleasure. Complex and seductive, her paintings layer overlapping, biomorphic forms, vibrant colors, and a diversity of textures. They are also richly loaded with a range of historical, stylistic, and physical references that include Color Field, Social Realist, and Surrealist paintings, 1960s and ’70s counter culture graphics, 1970s feminist art, and bodily forms and fluids. Exploring the full capabilities of acrylic paint—what she calls the ugly step-child of oil paint—Moyer often works on the floor, pouring, rolling, stippling, mopping, and hand-working the paint, as well as adding sections of glitter.

Painters Painting: A terrific video about painting – enjoy!

Painters Painting:
The New York Art Scene 1940-1970 is a 1972 documentary directed by Emile de Antonio. It covers American art movements from abstract expressionism to pop art through conversations with artists in their studios. Artists appearing in the film include Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Barnett Newman, Hans Hofmann, Jules Olitski, Philip Pavia, Larry Poons, Robert Motherwell, and Kenneth Noland.

For The Love of Paint!


To quote painter Carrie Moyer, “Painting is about paint.” Jennifer Moses and Jeffrey Hull both love paint and everything about it. These two artists share this love, and a life-long commitment to the material itself, to the paint. Yet viewed side by side each has a different style and a different way of presenting ideas about abstraction. Jeff Hull’s paintings and drawings could be described as beautiful but not elegant; Columbia University professor Gregory Amenoff comes to mind as an influence. Jennifer Moses’ work always seems to be seeking resolution and makes a nod to that of the painter Arshile Gorky.

One of the most valued aspects of an artist’s activity is the act of observation. This certainly describes what Moses and Hull do, using the paint, the “stuff”, to express what they carry inside, what they experience and observe internally: the accumulation of narrative, shapes, color, experiences, associations. Moses and Hull are artists who make this demand on themselves, to express what is ineffable. Requiring passion and diligence, they ask the viewer to join them on their journey, letting us see what they see.

Image: Jeffrey Hull, April in Paris, Oil on Canvas, 13 x 18 inches, 2103.

Negotiated Possibilities

(From the brochure for Jennifer Moses: The Black and White of Things, at Kingston Gallery February 5 – March 2, 2014)

Bandelier Phantasmagoria 21 x 23 2013
Jennifer Moses — Bandelier Phantasmagoria, oil on wood panel, 21 x 23″, 2013 [photo: Bruce Rogovin]
In 2010 Jennifer Moses was given the opportunity to leave her Boston studio behind for a sabbatical year at the Artist-in-Residence Program in Roswell, New Mexico. The residency culminated in a solo exhibition, Spellbound, at the Roswell Museum and Art Center. The work in that exhibition revealed the awestruck response of a native New Englander to the western landscape on both a macro and micro level. Glimpsed within these abstract paintings were echoes of the enormity of the desert and sky, the monumentality of exposed rock faces, the delicately patterned complexity of spider webs, the colors of the surrounding scrub. Since returning to Boston, she has worked to reconcile her transformative experience of the West with her lifelong experience of the urban spaces of the Northeast.

Jennifer Moses, Starburst, oil on panel, 12 x 12″, 2013

Moses uses the synthesis of opposing visual languages as a means of telling non-linear stories, explaining, “My process tends to be to paint until there seems to be no way forward and then try to introduce an impulsive and contradictory language in the work. From there it is like working a puzzle trying to integrate the two languages while maintaining the integrity of both. That is where the choices, this or that, black or white incite the creation of an image.”

As she has matured as an artist, her process and paintings have become increasingly complex, rich and varied, for rather than abandoning a visual language as she moves forward, she incorporates it into her ever-expanding repertoire. Earlier influences which continue to inform her vocabulary include details of Proto-Renaissance paintings as well as decaying Italian frescoes first seen during undergraduate studies in Rome; the work of Modernist painters such as Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and Philip Guston; and Hilma af Klint, whose work Moses saw in the 2013 Venice Biennale but has been looking at since the 1980s. More recent influences include the 2007 MoMA exhibition Comic Abstraction: Image Making, Image Breaking and Amy Sillman: One Lump or Two at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston.

Jennifer Moses — This or That, oil on wood panel, 16 x 16″, 2013 [photo: Bruce Rogovin]
Like centuries of painters before her, Moses leverages the characteristics of oil paint in a time-honored process of scraping, blocking and repainting, although she foregrounds rather than hides the journey by allowing it to remain visible. Yet at a time when the deliberate open-endedness of provisional painting is a much-discussed response to our era of ever-increasing uncertainty and possibilities, Moses takes an opposing path: she demands a resolution for each painting. She challenges herself to avoid remaining in an unresolved, gray area — making and ultimately committing to decisions, to the black or white yes or no of the process. The inherent tension of her finished paintings, comprised as they are of an accretion of reconsidered marks, is compellingly destabilizing: in this work the certainty of resolution does not mean that the dynamic tension has been relieved.

Jennifer Moses — Untitled, oil on panel, 33 x 30″, 2013 [photo: Forrest Elliot]
When Moses visits museums she is sensitive to the dialogue between the works of art she is viewing. While grounded in her here and now, her new paintings reach back and forth through time and across continents, in animated conversation with places, artworks, and audience. The Black and White of Things offers evidence that she is a painter very much in tune with the world of today, thoughtfully absorbing and negotiating visual, narrative and conceptual complexity to arrive at resonantly contemporary solutions.

— Mary Bucci McCoy

Studio view.