William Monk, Sam Windett and Mark Grotjahn
After visiting a number of different galleries last week, I was struck by a few young artists whose paintings would indicate that they are responding to early modern art but not with irony. Nor with awe. I think all of these artists as continuing a compelling conversation.
There are two British artists, Sam Windett and William Monk, both born in 1977 but looking to the Symbolists in direct and indirect ways. And there is Mark Grotjahn, American, born in 1968, living in LA, looking at the Cubists.
Referring to Modern Art with capitals is in vogue but these artists do not approach the topic with the more commonly held cynicism. They are not exactly quoting but rather looking to aspects of the past that might capture our imagination and attention now.
If Albert Pinkham Ryder and Marsden Hartley had had a love child, using the ovum of Agnes Pelton after the ritual partaking of hallucinogens, it could have been William Monk. Monk's exhibition is on view at Kohn Gallery through June 27. The English artist trained in the Netherlands and won the Royal Award for Painting in 2005 while in Amsterdam and the Jerwood Painting Prize in Britain in 2009. His paintings do not appear to be done in cold, crowded London, where he lives, but out on Route 66.
The rich tradition of spiritually charged landscapes is taken to a new level in Monk's broad fields of sky and terrain. Yet, they are entirely of today. The Cloud is Growing in the Trees (2015), also the title of the show, features a broad sky of metallic silver, above narrow arcs of tangerine and teal, over a wide band of eggplant color stained into the canvas and a base of minuscule, detailed patterns. On many levels, this picture asks us to look more closely, embrace the feeling as much as the idea behind the art. Other landscapes are arranged around serpentine clouds and darkened forests while some are exacting studies of the dappling light amidst trees. A highlight is a four-panel work that reads as singular despite the gaps between the vertical canvases: The Divided Cell (paravent) (2015). An artist who can span psychedelic extremes, ungainly composition and painstaking refinement is worth watching.