Kayne Griffin is pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by Mary Obering, her second with the gallery.
This exhibition is a survey of work by Obering from the early 1970s through the 2010s. The paintings on view highlight the developments in her painting practice – including material, inspiration and technique – that occurred over forty years. Central to all is Obering’s commitment to geometric abstraction while exploring the essence of color.
The four earliest works in the exhibition are from the 1970s and illustrate the transitions Obering made from oil and acrylic paintings on canvas to her first paintings with egg tempera on panel. In the paintings on canvas, she explored color and space by layering geometric fields of color; in the case of Colorful Spring Rain (1973) cutting canvas and laying one piece on top of the other in vertical columns. This idea of layering and creating relationships within the abstract space can also be seen in For Morandi (1978) in which the start and finish of each brushstroke of the translucent egg tempera application is clearly delineated and creates its own rhythm along with the blocks of color themselves. The arch-shaped panels of the diptych Outside and Inside (1975), some of the last paintings done in oil, evoke windows through which a horizon line is seen. In fact, for Obering, the conceptual pull toward representation (referenced in the titles of many of her works) offered her a structured way to approach abstraction while also acknowledging its influence. Speaking of this, Obering has said, “My earlier work, while non-representational, referred to landscape. I made several series of paintings but slowly they became more and more referential. To try to become abstract again, I broke their components down to a horizon line and the horizontals, verticals, and diagonals that we see when we look at scenery.”
Continuing her color and spatial experimentation, a shift in her technique occurred in the mid-1970s. Obering moved away from working on canvas and began to employ the Old Master process of egg tempera, gold leaf on gessoed panel, inspired by her time spent in Italy. Additionally, the technical aspect of painting with these materials appealed to Obering’s interest in scientific engagement, and she has subsequently employed these materials to explore scientific concepts - such as particle physics – and natural phenomena; a nod to her studies in the late 1950s. In Cricket, from 1979, and Luna D’Autunno from 1992, horizontal and vertical blocks of gold leaf and tempera highlight Obering’s interest in scale and color relationships. In Blocked from 1990, Obering breaks down her techniques into their components with each panel of color an individual material - egg tempera, copper leaf, gilding clay, graphite, gesso, panel. Through exposing materials which usually remain under the painted surface, Blocked both reveals and incorporates the process of painting into the final composition. This idea of layering, of creating space with minimal two-dimensional relationships, can be seen throughout all the paintings in the exhibition.
Mary Obering was born in 1937 in Shreveport, Louisiana. She received a BA in Experimental Psychology at Hollins College and her MA in Behavioral Science studying under B.F. Skinner at Harvard. Soon after graduating from the MFA program at the University of Denver in 1971 she moved to SoHo in New York City. Carl Andre curated an exhibition of her work at Artist’s space in 1973, and her work was included in the 1975
Whitney Biennial. Obering’s works have also been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; CAB Art Foundation, Brussels; Crystal Bridges Museum of America Art, Bentonville, AR; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; Denver Art Museum and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO among others. Her works are in the permanent collections of institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, The Detroit Institute of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT.
Mary Obering lives in New York City.
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