Katy Richards: Fluid Depths at HEDGE
Katy Richards’ new work showcases her classic exuberance for the materiality of oils, as well as her obvious firsthand knowledge of her new waterlogged subjects. The paint oozes around the surface of the works, alive, about to swim off the canvas.
The scale of Richards’ new work is impressive, with statement pieces like “Dance of the Butterfly” as large as four by eight feet. And they are filled with fresh, fluid brushstrokes in the dazzling tones of underwater life. Bright highlights sit on top of muddy shadows, so gooey and glossy Richards might have just added them and left the room moments before you entered. They really do give the viewer the feeling of being underwater, exploring with her a world both familiar and foreign.
Along the north wall is that large work, “Dance of the Butterfly,” a worthy focal point in almost all the chambers of the gallery. It’s installation next to the elevator door, which has been painted a matching shade of turquoise, underscores the striking repetition of small clusters of stripes throughout the piece, Cheshire fishes converging on the sea floor. Teal, green, lemon, and even hints of lilac are layered seamlessly over murky shadows to give the impression of movement underwater, of life and the bouncing around of sunlight through the current.
In the next room, “Accumulation” undulates next to the artist’s statement, forming the focus of the interior entry to the gallery. Like a colony of froot loops coming together to create an octopus, tropical tones and that same surprising burst of periwinkle fill the space, swarming to the center, shouting “I’m alive!” I imagine Richards dipping slugs into oil paint and letting them dance around the canvas to create these slick, squiggly trails. The mauve wall behind the work ties the whole room together, striking a balance between neutral and spotlight, and encouraging the viewer wade into the murky shadows of the piece.
Two works on paper mounted to board look as much like looming macro worlds light years away being invaded as the do the close ups of fish eyes that they are. They carry the viewer back into the main space of the gallery, and a series of smaller, mostly yellow, more representational works. At first these lemony seaweed nest studies are a puzzling departure, the texture of the strokes feel different from her other work, and they don’t give you that free floating feeling or dazzle you with color. But they add a layer of understanding to the other works, providing you with an inverted view, as though we are peering out at the small patches of ocean in the center of the canvas from inside the murky shadows of all the other pieces. The stars of the show are still the massive, jewel toned, more abstracted works that fill most of the space, but these nests do provide a ponderous counterpoint.
They also help inform the feminine, fertile, Fallopian-tube-rendered-in-frosting that is “Seeded Floor,” which on second pass reads like a fleshy spaceship in a messy, not at all vacuous space, moments after an explosion takes out the cargo hold. “Seeded Floor” also contains the best example of the acid textured, solvent drop trail that form a sort of octopus tentacle in the backgrounds of some of the works, providing a foil to the rich fullness of the oil, and another declaration by the artist of her love for the paint. The mauve toned wall appears again, framing the work and connecting back to the opposite end of the gallery, while simultaneously pulling the viewer into the mauve of the piece.
Hilary Gent, Hedge’s director, did a wonderful job setting off each work with her installation choices, like the mauve walls and turquoise texture accents. The effortlessly stylish textures and tones throughout the space create a welcoming, upscale environment that is a testament to Gent’s attention to detail and spot on artistic eye. It’s a stunning place spotlighting solid work from a talented and remarkably prolific artist.
Fluid Depths is on view at Hedge until April 28th, open Tues-Friday 11-5pm, and during the 78th Street Studios Third Friday April 21st.