"Goes With Green" (2019)
"Rider's Delight" (2019)
"Drag Hunt" (2019)
"Death Rider, Widow IX" (2019)
"The New Yorker, Widow VIII" (2019)
Suzy Spence: DEATH RIDER brings together two large-scale paintings and several smaller works by Suzy Spence in an exhibition that continues her exploration of death and sex through the metaphor of drag hunting.
Her largest paintings to date, "The New Yorker (Widow VIII") and "Death Rider (Widow IX)", both 2019, are each nine by twelve feet. These commanding, frontal portraits of sidesaddle riders are rendered from the shoulders up, with equestrian stock ties wrapped tightly around their necks. The women’s veils, composed of black paint drips raining down from Victorian top hats, evoke a macabre update to Alex Katz’s iconic "Blue Umbrella 2" (1972) in which Ada seems to weep with the raindrops. Building on Katz’s graphic approach, Spence combines Frankenthaler-inflected soaking and staining with drawing, using broad, industrial-sized brushes and sponges to achieve an all-over effect with an expressionistic bravado that bids the individual riders to emerge.
Along with these two large-scale paintings, a selection of smaller, nine by twelve inch portraits -- which Spence calls “black paintings” -- show single riders seated in equestrian finery. Elegant, intimate, contemplative, each of her subjects is accompanied by a horse (their mount) and surrounded by darkness in restrained interplays of intimacy and control. Spence’s natural hand has a rounded, cartooning quality that, along with its satirical edge and painterly
facility, references Francesco de Goya’s Black Paintings. Goya’s psychologically charged and mysterious portraits of patrons could too, like Spence’s, be as reverent as they could be vicious.
In "Drag Hunt" (2019), the only landscape painting in the show, four riders leap through an elaborate field of stone walls and thick brush, detailed with cerebral, repetitive patterning reminiscent of Charles Burchfield’s paintings and wall papers. Spence’s riders chase a blank in the space where the fox should be, galloping into the lush oblivion while each moment swells with life and adventure.
A veteran of the downtown 1990s art scene, Spence was featured in the first installment ofPainting Now and Forever at Matthew Marks and Pat Hearn galleries in 1998, and was one of a few painters to exhibit at the conceptually oriented American Fine Arts, Co. Born in 1969, she grew up in Maine and New York City, and was educated at Parsons School of Design (BFA), The School of Visual Arts (MFA), and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.