New York

Lee Hall

Betty Parsons Gallery

Lee Hall’s large acrylic and small watercolor landscapes are tissuelike, translucent, jagged-edged masses of color slipped over each other to make water-ridges and luminous peaks through the overlap. They are described by names of places—Uxbridge Hill, Providence Fragment, Rhode Island Facade—and by times and states—Night Edge, Afternoon Distance, Morning Edge Contemplation. Initially the composition of these paintings concurs with the most conventionalized imaginings of what an abstract landscape should solicit from nature: a mountainous form, a horizon line drawn or inferred, distance, light, mist, order, profusion. However, the landscape art of Lee Hall is not that of the outside world abstracted, but a form of pantheism where abstraction itself is a transcendental conception of the outside.

The paint, russets fusing into green brown into mud and chalk white underlaid with brown and water spreadings of gray undergrowth, seems to bleed from the fibers of the canvas. It is in this sense of having been painted from the inside that we perceive the artist as having merged herself with the mountains, speaking for them. In the Stimmunglandschaft tradition, Hall is absorbed in a unit bigger than herself, bigger than her canvas.

There is no form without seeing; therefore seeing is an object in itself. More than an involvement with places, Hall deliberates the nature of her place within the painting frame. Her eye—a “wall” or “window” as she terms it—is a wet surface with boundaries more limited in scope than the periphery of the frame. Its limitation is declared in many of the watercolor paintings by the transcription of an almost transparent rectangle floating midway on the plane; that is the ledge, so to speak, from which she views. By this gesture, man and mountain are declared equals and there is communion. The visible tangibility of space, as in Chinese landscape painting, is sacrificed by laying the planes of colored washes atop each other, saturating each other, to achieve a tight surface tension which makes intimate even the largest canvases.

Judith Lopes Cardozo