In the past, Lynn McCarty eschewed brushes and poured paint directly onto her grounds, noting, “I love not knowing what will occur when I move and tip the wet covered surfaces.”
Recently, she has added a blade to her arsenal. Working on aluminum panels, she strips transparent scrims of paint out of earlier work and collages them into new compositions. Collage as a medium often calls to mind incongruous collisions of existing imagery — Max Ernst’s huge reptile crawling over two oblivious women in a Victorian parlor — but here McCarty (born 1961) peels up pure abstract forms and layers them into new configurations. In one instance, a rivulet of color might be abruptly interrupted and then restart a bit to one side, like an ancient stream bed shifted by long-ago earthquakes. In the two-foot-square Circle Around II (2017), a dark, bottom-heavy shape has scraped across a gray background, leaving whitish skid marks. This form pivots off of small chunks of bright color, setting up an oscillation of scale that from one perspective might feel as circumscribed as a clock pendulum, from another, as grand as continental drift.
At times, evanescent slabs of paint cohere into figures with surrealist heft. The three totem-like forms in the five-foot-wide Spirit (2017) share a lime-green and burnt-orange palette; like effigies that see/speak/hear no evil, they are slightly comical, but slashed planes and jagged contours lend a baleful tinge that complicates easygoing beauty.
Although a descendent of the elegant pourings of Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis from last century, McCarty’s deft compositions of ripped edges, crazed blots, sundered veils, and free-range colors convey an agitation in sync with our times.
Lynn McCarty: Slipping Sideways
Nancy Hoffman Gallery
520 West 27th Street
Through July 1