Helen Beckman - Lament Hat - 2011, oil on panel, 14 x11 inches - Courtesy of Newman Popiashvili Gallery, NY
In Helen Beckman's paintings, the subject catches you by surprise and never really leaves you: A bird, a horse, a woman... These fundamental themes, recurring in her work, are not always visible at the first look. You encounter them often swimming in light. But although they can be seen as each painting's cornerstone, you quickly realize that other battles are going on here : There is much more than the pastoral here.
Helen Beckman - Burning - 2010, oil on panel, 10 x 8 inches - Courtesy of Newman Popiashvili Gallery, NY
As much as there is light and clarity in these paintings, there is darkness and confusion as well. Colors are mostly pale on each gessoed wood panel, with sparkle of black. Formats are small. Strokes are at times thick, making part of some paintings look like a miniature mosaic, at times like watercolor. Often they are a combination of precision and spontaneity. The juxtaposition and merging of forms and colors get to a point where the painting brilliantly holds itself (which is rare enough to be mentioned).
This pulsation between materiality and ephemerality -- between the appearance and disappearance of the subject -- make these paintings almost magical. These irradiating works, despite their initial ethereal and atmospheric effect, have an amazingly strong presence.
Tell it Slant
Until June 25, 2011
Newman Popiashvili Gallery
504 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011
T. 212.274.9166 F. 917.464.3734
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more