Carmen Neely, “Not A Tourist”
Time Out says
Friendly warning! We're working hard to be accurate. But these are unusual times, so please check that events are still happening.
Although filled with slashing, calligraphic strokes and dabs, Carmen Neely’s abstract paintings can evoke recognizable images. You like an extended metaphor, don’t you conjures a Venetian scene, with the configurations of marks variously suggesting a gondola’s prow, a column or mooring post, and an arched bridge reflected in the water. He’s got a lot of blankets, just for winter seems to depict a large room, with a coffinlike box in the foreground.
These hints of landscapes or interiors, coupled with her hermetic titles, recall the lyrical, oneiric works that Arshile Gorky created in the 1940s, but Neely updates Abstract Expressionism by incorporating patches of embroidery or enamel pins into the canvas (a badge that resembles a peach—or a pair of buttocks—appears to be a particular favorite). These cartoony, quasi-sculptural elements make the difference between what is real and what is representation into a chicken-and-egg conundrum while also framing the painterly gesture’s presumed relationship to sincerity and feeling as a pop-culture problem.
Neely’s color choices skew heavily toward a wide range of flesh tones, from creamy pinks and beiges to dark browns and blacks, and this may constitute her only concession to referencing personal identity—a boldly restrained position for a young African-American artist, originally from North Carolina, who works in a venerable style that has long been dominated by white men. Yet it feels like the right approach since Neely’s efforts are meant to renew abstraction’s enduring expressive and intellectual potential for our era.