Critics’ Picks

  • Eric Aho, Americana, 2021, oil on linen, 52 × 48".

    Eric Aho, Americana, 2021, oil on linen, 52 × 48".

    Burlington

    Eric Aho

    Burlington City Arts
    135 Church Street
    February 18–June 5, 2022

    Writing for Artforum in 2014, critic Donald Kuspit posited that Eric Aho’s decades-long engagement with landscape painting had less to do with the genre than with the medium itself. “He chooses to paint landscapes because they are the ideal embodiment of the spirit of painting,” Kuspit wrote. In this exhibition, featuring sixteen recent works, Aho pushes his dialectical engagement with his subject matter and the means of depicting it in exciting, challenging new directions.

    Aho’s art is rarely discussed without mention of the fact that he paints near the woods in a small town in Vermont. Indeed, the canvases in this exhibition—which range in size from roughly six feet square to less than two feet square—conjure a feeling of sensory and spiritual immersion in a romanticized idea of the New England wilderness. Some works veer almost entirely into abstraction, such as the delightfully strange Spirit Stand and Echo Pond Edge, Wild Spring (all works cited, 2021), whose tumbling reflected forms and built-up scraped-away surfaces make us feel as though we are observing secluded waters surrounded by trees. The wild impressionism of Orion, Mists, and Fireflies (no. 2) resolves into a lively, if somewhat alien, depiction of the titular insects on a dark and humid summer night. Open Pond in the Forest and Americana, however, are rendered with much more precision and detail, yet the pools and waterfalls they depict are almost too picturesque to be believable.

    Although many things could be said about the political relevance of portraying the landscape at a time of ecological upheaval, Aho’s work is, more than anything, an earnest ode to the importance of communing with nature and to the privileged capacity of painting to capture the ineffable magic of this interaction.