Critics’ Picks

Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Summer Maple 2013, 2013, oil on linen, 60 x 45".

Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Summer Maple 2013, 2013, oil on linen, 60 x 45".

New York

Sylvia Plimack Mangold

Alexander and Bonin
47 Walker Street
April 29–June 24, 2017

In a kind of durational performance, Sylvia Plimack Mangold has painted the trees surrounding her home in Washingtonville, New York, for the past thirty years. Her painting routine, like tree growth, is seasonal. In winter, she paints from inside her studio; otherwise, she paints outdoors. Not merely relying on shadow and sunlight, Mangold creates depth and volume through variations in leaf color and multiple vanishing points. The artist enters her paintings, she declares, as if she were a “flying creature,” perhaps a hummingbird or a gnat. Early in her career, Plimack Mangold painted deadpan trompe l’oeil of her wooden floor. While Mangold’s tree and floor paintings share a material interest, they’re also both studies in spatial anatomy. Here, The Winter Maple Tree, 2016, feels like a composite, made from a row of trees stealthily lined up behind it. In The Pin Oak 4/13, 2013, a watercolor, fluffy leaves (think of Helen Frankenthaler’s gauzy, watery blots) drift into a soft, flat sky (not too unlike the atmospheric gradients rendered by Jules Olitski). Mangold’s treatment of genre is also subtly cheeky. While Conceptual artists subjugated form to content Mangold playfully but rigorously back-pedaled to recognizable, Romantic-era subject matter. Declining to make work that hews to manufactured and biannually shifting theoretical categories, Mangold’s subject, she writes, is “painting with nature as my source and focus. . . . This experience of being in one place, studying the same forms over and over sounds repetitious, but, in fact, it feels expansive.”