Critics’ Picks

View of “I know that I am awake,” 2012. Foreground: Virginia Poundstone, Miss Margaret Legge, 2012. Background: Paul Heyer, Wine, 2011.

New York

Paul Heyer and Virginia Poundstone

Rachel Uffner Gallery
170 Suffolk Street
January 15 - February 26

Painting and sculpture make peaceful bedfellows in this exhibition by two artists whose works, while formally dissimilar, mirror a taste for bucolic and understated beauty. The show’s title, “I know that I am awake,” is lifted from author and Zen Buddhist Peter Matthiessen, who in his 1978 memoir Snow Leopard climbs the Himalayas in search of the elusive titular beast, but finds exquisiteness in the pedestrian sights along the way. Following suit, Paul Heyer and Virginia Poundstone evoke a sense of the existential via more modest matter.

Heyer’s subtle marks on canvas (stippled strokes, calligraphic lines, flashes of underpainting) and diverse subjects (doughnutlike wreaths, sprigs of leaves, a lamppost) showcase slippery symbols amid abstract smears and flecks. Here, the historical weight of the medium rolls off, and depth occurs instead in the painting’s visual encounter. An effortlessly wrought but particularly juicy painting, Burrow, 2011, for example, is velvety red and layered with leopard spots in black and bright blue. A shadowy slit sketched at its center conjures a feeling of being engulfed by the painting’s heart of darkness.

Meanwhile, Poundstone’s sculptures merge the floral and the industrial in striking balancing acts. Her recent works feature freestanding pedestals made of ceramic tile or solid concrete. Strips of steel—digitally printed with photographs of purple rhododendron—loop and twist around these bases. Ikenobo Yuki, 2012, a waist-high assemblage (named after a foremost female practitioner of ikebana flower arranging), resembles an elaborately considered present topped with ribbon curlicues; another, titled (after the late British “society florist”) Constance Spry, 2012, sports a fan of brass rods, peacocklike and proud. Like the master florists she references—and Heyer too—Poundstone takes the materials at hand, strips away both burden and banality, and re-presents a rather enlightened arrangement.