Pat Steir: Waterfall Paintings on Paper
Lévy Gorvy, New York
August 17 - October 1, 2020
Pat Steir: Waterfall Paintings on Paper (2020) opened at Lévy Gorvy, New York, in August 2020. Working on paper has been a quintessential aspect of Steir’s acclaimed practice since the 1970s. The artist has produced drawings and prints alongside her paintings for decades but has rarely released them from her collection. When she does so, it is almost always for acquisitions by foremost museums: the Museum of Modern Art in New York is home to more than twenty of Steir’s works on paper.
Together with her careful study of Chinese landscape paintings, Steir’s affinity with Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions has figured centrally in her conception of the act of painting as a form of meditation, a conscious sharpening of focus that leads to the merging of the artist with the work of art. Just as the masters of Chinese landscape painting did not consider their images to be representational in the same way that Western artists did, Steir created her celebrated Waterfall paintings on canvas and paper by flinging or pouring ink, oil, and tempera in such a way that they became as natural as the mountains, trees, rivers, and waterfalls depicted in historical Asian landscape paintings. Steir, like the Minimalists, insists that her works are never finished; instead, they are passed on to the viewer when she ceases painting as an invitation for further meditation and insight. In this way, the subject of a Waterfall painting is the paint itself: it is both a waterfall and a picture of a waterfall.
Ranging from an intimate scale to dimensions approximating the human body, the Waterfall paintings on paper in this exhibition date from the early 1990s and mid-2000s. They presented an immersive and non-representational but recognizably figurative and architectonic space expressed through organically emerging and dissolving forms.