Cheim & Read is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings by Dona Nelson. Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, Dona Nelson has lived and worked in New York since 1968. The group of paintings to be shown are collectively titled The Twelve Stations of the Subway and were recently presented in a survey of her work shown at the Weatherspoon Art Gallery in Greensboro, North Carolina. Following is a text by Klaus Kertess "Take the A(rt) Train" accompanying the Cheim & Read exhibition:
"In her twelve sequential paintings of The Stations of the Subway (1997-1998), Dona Nelson looks back through the lens of the painterliness she has so fearlessly and intelligently explored at the art she encountered in the early 1970s during the beginning of her art's maturity. Nelson's everyday experiences are inextricably layered into the flow of her paint's associativeness, and her Stations call not only to the art she viewed but to the subway rides she took to and from art's new outpost in Soho. The title, of course, refers to the Stations of the Cross, more specifically to Barnett Newman's Stations of the the Cross (1958-1966); and, indeed, Newman's pared down dignities exerted a strong impact on much of the art Nelson saw during her forays into Soho.
Nelson believes the large, calculated paintings striving for a signature style that she so frequently saw in the early 1970s were, in part,
responding to the newly renovated, grand spaces in which they were exhibited. In her desire to reflect the art ethos of that formative moment in her development and in the history of New York's art world, Nelson assumed a cooler more measured manner of painting than has been her recent wont – without draining the juicy physicality so endemic to her work created in the last decade. The grid found in many of her Station paintings calls to both the grid of the subway system and to the Spartan geometries and procedural clarities seen in the Minimalism still dominating much of the art made in the early 1970s. However, Nelson's grids take a trip into warping flows of paint. The circles drawn from subway wheels and from mullioned glasses embedded in many a Soho sidewalk refuse to adhere to the rigors of geometric regularity and seem to be dislocated by urban cacophonies.
Also embedded in Nelson's Stations are references to various artists important to her artistic development; they range from a peer like Harriet Korman to Eva Hesse to Lucio Fontana, to Jackson Pollock and more. This heady mix is not always readily apparent to every viewer arriving at one of these paintings. What has been rendered viscerally visible are gritty and cosmicomic embodiments of urban freneticism unruling the grid of our environment. That the grid of the subway system and the grid of 1970s artmaking systems overlap is made abundantly clear. Recognizing the specific references intertwined in the paint's tracks provides a certain benefit, but the viewer can still arrive at the pleasure of the painting's destination without such knowledge. I, for one, was able only to identify Piet Mondrian's experience of the urban grid as seen in his Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-1943) and Pollock's nun-urban excavation, The Deep (1953), casting reflections on Nelson's surfaces. So experience the beauty of the ride, don't agonize unduly over the route and see how resolutely Dona Nelson can conduct us on her tour of paints marvels."