New York

Leonora Carrington

Brewster Gallery

In this show of recent paintings, works on paper, and sculptures, all executed since her move to New York in 1986, Leonora Carrington, one of the lesser-known figures of the European Surrealist movement, offered some of her most compelling expressions to date. In all these pieces, Carrington demonstrates a peerless mastery of what might be called visual poetics: the unfolding drama of form that is to be found only in art of the highest level. She reveals an unfettered creativity that is constantly engaged in a passionate search for larger truths.

Carrington’s method is an evocative one. In the paintings, for example, she provides discrete glimpses of a world apart from the commonplace, where things often appear to be fantastic, but seem to have aspects to them that are utterly familiar. Carrington’s figures, as well as the settings and situations in which they function, are ripe with meanings that surface only gradually. Each painting does tell a story but one that cannot be read in any literal way. Carrington is a weaver of magical tales; she gathers a variety of thematic threads and draws them together seamlessly. Her sources range from early Italian Renaissance gold-ground painting to the myths of the Chiapas Indians to feminist social history. In several of her recent paintings Carrington explores the relationship between nature and religion. The transcendent powers of instinct are represented by the figures of the animals, which are as individuated as those of any of the humans. These figures are curious hybrids, and their appearance is often weird or fearsome— the hyena with the red human leg in The Lovers, 1987, or the dogs with the human hands in Ikon, 1988. The force and fury, the very energy of life itself seems to flow through their forms, animating their actions even when these involve nothing more than sitting calmly on the ground or standing still. The forms of these figures are painted, drawn, or sculpted so that they succeed in projecting a radiant energy; they invite deeply empathetic responses in return.

In the paintings cited above, the scenes presented are ones dealing also with the significance of ceremony and ritual. Carrington confronts us with our own need for the sort of communal and universal experiences that nature supplies. She opens the door and lets religion, in the largest sense, out of the institutionalized closet.

Through her art she addresses the eternal quests for knowledge and enlightenment with insight, and bridges the divide between objective and psychic reality.

Ronny Cohen