On ViewCeysson & Bénétière
June 18 – July 30, 2021
In their two-person show at Ceysson & Bénétière, the abstractions of Rosy Keyser and Joseph Montgomery take us through an eclectic journey of Constructivism, Abstract Expressionism, Arte Povera, assemblage, and Minimalism into their own personal synthesis of painting and sculpture as frictional yet unified objects. Each practice is closely linked to the exploration of paint and found materials, revealing similar musical and geometric surfaces through color, form, and process.
Keyser’s work fearlessly engages painterly materials, working within and outside the exposed rectangle of the canvas support to assemblage paint with detritus like twigs, sawdust, cloth, oyster shells, strings, and steel. In these new works the paintings’ substrates are mostly covered, more concealed than those behind the deconstructed, primal, overtly ripped canvases of the past decade.
Keyser’s rust orange, rectangular Metabolic Berd (2021) features a large, ribbed semi-circle, achieved by first covering the canvas with hot wax and then molding it over a semi-circle shaped corrugated sheet metal, typically used in construction. Paper pulp is embedded between the metal mold and the waxed canvas such that when the metal is removed, a paper cast form remains hidden behind the painting, reinforcing this three-dimensional surface. The troughs and ridges within this semi-circle, alternating between orange and yellow vertical lines, are accentuated by the radiating ripples of the stretched waxed canvas, thus generating a solar image. To the right of the concealed cast-paper shape, we can observe a strange bird-like glyph, whose curved back is mirroring the curve of the circular protruding form. A rectangle of this same corrugated cast paper, painted in green, white, and eggplant, is placed horizontally on the top part of the narrow vertical work, Echo Index (2021), so this time we can actually see the ribbed material juxtaposed next to waxed canvas. The gestural and rhythmic minimal black, white, and green brushwork, combined with the roughness of the exposed cast-paper and the waxed eggplant canvas, produce a more somber presence.
The minimal mysticism of Keyser’s paintings corresponds compellingly with the urban structures of Montgomery’s work. For example, in Keyser’s Tipperary Dyad (2021), there is a large triangle cut in the stretched canvas and folded down, the triangular opening in the painting suggesting a mystical minimalist symbol within a visual field of darkened black and forest green. The triangle evokes a musical duality in Montgomery’s four poetic painted wooden-shim reliefs: Image Six Hundred Five (2021), Image Six Hundred Twenty (2021), Image Five Hundred Fifty (2020), and Image Five Hundred Ninety Six (2021). The slanted vertical compositions are painted in monochrome or in dual-tone acrylic. For example, in Image Six Hundred Twenty, the painting alternates between matted whale gray and eggplant color, while Image Six Hundred Five contains two shades of deep indigo covered in a glossy, sea-green varnish. What stands out as an autonomous presence is Montgomery’s Image Six Hundred Sixteen (2021), which has a sculptural resin shape ripped from the work’s top-half and positioned on the bottom half, creating a palimpsest of its previous placement. The whole painting is sensitively articulated with trickled down vertical streaks of red iron oxide, a more organic interpretation of the overarching rigid vertical reliefs—an inherently architectural motif—that is commonly identified with his work. We can relate the fluidity of these vertical drips of paint to the vibrations of a harp’s strings, akin to the density of a dizzying forest of vertical pines. In either case, while Montgomery uses an existing structure to compose an image of irregular and broken geometry, Keyser undertakes her visceral processes and the use of materials to guide the creation and element of surprise.
In the end, however different, in both Montgomery’s and Keyser’s utilization of structure, scale, materials, and image creation, we find their similarity in the minimalist use of color, shapes, and vertical structures, as well as painterly and mechanical brushwork. While Montgomery’s approach is more controlled and cerebral, Keyser’s is an excessive, versatile, bodily undertaking, both artists exploring abstraction with complete trust in the potential of the materials.