New York

Judy Ledgerwood

Scott Hanson Gallery

Judy Ledgerwood’s large sky- and landscapes fall into the now-popular mode of mediated nature painting, which draws on 19th-century romantic landscapes as experienced through art-history books, magazines, and other sources of reproduced images. Ledgerwood is one of a number of young Chicago artists who have jumped on the bandwagon of self-proclaimed artifice. On the surface, her paintings yield few clues regarding their subversive intent and might easily be taken for mere “pretty pictures”—which they are. But Ledgerwood intends her technique itself to convey a political message: diffused brushwork and hues of equal value provide a “feminine” counter statement to “masculine” bravura painting, with its pronounced strokes and emphasis on singular events. Unfortunately, Ledgerwood’s patient, selfless mode sometimes results in blandness: In Grey (all works ,1989) is a particularly washed-out composition in tired pinks and grays. Her work also draws on other periods and styles: Untitled is a vertical skyscape whose green, maroon, and orange sections separate, as in a protracted Mark Rothko; the artist’s medium, oil mixed with encaustic, is inextricably associated with Jasper Johns.

In general, Ledgerwood paints well and knows how to evoke atmospheric effects with delicacy and precision. Her cloudy skies are full of subtle gradations, yet contain enough contrasts to stand out. The problems with her work lie elsewhere, as in the considerable chasm between Ledgerwood’s words and her pictures: her brushwork and use of color don’t convey the metaphorical weight ascribed to them. She seems to be indebted to the work of contemporary artists from Peter Halley to April Gornik. Her painting and writing address and synthesize several current issues—simulation, media interference, the inaccessibility of nature, art-historical consciousness, the politics of gender-without making their own distinct contribution to the prevailing discourse.

Lois E. Nesbitt