New York

Mary Hambleton

Pamela Auchincloss Gallery

Mary Hambleton continues to explore the affective potential of abstraction. As one of the talented group of American painters who have been largely responsible for reviving interest in the symbolic possibilities of abstraction, Hambleton has developed a striking pictorial language that reveals abstraction’s capacity for conveying both interior emotions and physical sensations.

For Hambleton, painting is a window onto the profounder orders of experience; in other words, for her, painting seems to function as an effective vehicle for the mind’s eye, allowing it to attain and to hold fundamental truths about the forces governing existence. Never one to shy away from daunting thematics, Hambleton, over the years, has cut an admirably bold path through decidedly enigmatic territory. Her work has dealt with religion, myth, and civilization, as well as with the pleasures, pains, and passions of life; these recent paintings reaffirm the depth of her vision, offering a remarkably specific vision of abstraction’s expressive potential.

In Survivor, 1991, she has created one of her most exciting iconic motifs to date. The towering conic shape, rising from the bottom to the top of this vertical canvas, is modeled to suggest volume, and silvery streaks impress as materialized bolts symbolic of the forces of light tearing through the darkness. The themes of light and darkness are also explored in Maya, 1991, one of several works employing a tripartite format that has become the artist’s trademark. Here the brilliant golden and flaming tones of the central panel provide a dramatic contrast to the shadowy dark side-panels, though swirling patterns animate all three.

The drive to order the cosmos—to systematize natural phenomena—is revealed in the painting entitled Waiting For Pythagoras, 1991. At the center of a triptych, in which the side panels are composed of narrow vertical black lines, an evanescent flurry of marks and geometric configurations brings to mind the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. Far from being intrusive, this Renaissance association enriches the work; various temporal and spatial qualities—the vestiges of the past, the palpable currents of the present—all course through this painting as if through a direct pipeline from the imagination.

Ronny Cohen