Location: 126 13th Street, #5
"SHEILA KRAMER is emerging as a master of one of the great subsets of landscape painting, and perhaps that which is most related to abstract painting: the painting of skyscapes. The intimation of emerging order out of the relative chaos of form and light in skies has fascinated painters since Giorgione, but it was baroque painting that really loosened beings into the air and consequently focused attention on what air looked like. In the post-Enlightenment era, Turner and Constable were devoted to recording the movements and structures of clouds at different times of day. Once technology lifted human beings into altitude via balloon and then aircraft, atmospheres could be studied by looking down as well as up. And as abstraction developed the aerial point of view became inimical to numerous painters, from Kandinsky to Malevich and the Constructivists."
"The suspended or hovering point of view was the platform for Abstract Expressionism, beginning with Pollock’s linear skeins and Rothko’s firmed up clouds of ton sur ton color. Among post war landscape painters, Jane Wilson strikingly pancaked her Long Island Atlantic horizons down at the bottom of her canvases, drawing the viewer’s gaze back up into skies that were as chromatically complex as Rothko’s paintings from the 1950s and early 1960s and as meticulously recorded in their cloud layers as Turner’s great port paintings from the middle of his career. Turner subsequently strapped himself like Ulysses to a ship’s mast in order to be immersed in sea spray, cloud and light; but he still was earthbound Kramer goes him one better, however, by launching herself aloft with a Baroque god’s eye view of the sky as a certified single engine aircraft pilot. Thus, her skyscapes trade an earthbound point of view, along with its implicit yearning, for a more exultant plunge into the heart of illuminated clouds and atmospheres."
"It should be stressed that Kramer’s immersion in the sky is a point of departure for her desire to make paintings, not the other way around. With the intermittent exception of the occasional outsider artist, artists look at art and speak to art through their own work. It is like a rolling conversation that includes the living and the dead. Kramer is invoking a vast range of historical precedents and at the same time her encounter with the elements of painting is immediate. Her color can be luminescent to the point of near iridescence, suggestive of atmospheric effects, but also moves beyond representational accuracy to heightened chromatics that are products of the imagination. We have the concurrent sensations of looking at intensifications of light effects that occur at sunrise and sunset while also seeing color as a mineral experience."
"As in Jane Wilson’s paintings, a number of Kramer’s panels include a narrow horizon line running along the bottom of the image. This line produces a liminal threshold of deep shadow that throws the complex chromatics of the vaulting sky into vibrant contrast. Kramer positions the viewer at a higher altitude than Wilson does so we feel the horizon is below rather than across from us. In other paintings the horizon drops away completely and we are in the cloud-to-cloud territory of the Virgin’s assumption and Olympian immortals."
"These latter paintings often feel more “abstract,” especially when compared to the almost tactile specificity of cloud structures in such “horizon” paintings as Mist Around Aran Island (2013). Here, the glowing near chartreuse yellow of illuminated cloud edges finds a perfectly legible, space-giving contrast between the shadowed horizon and light infused, grey cloud shadow near the top of the picture. I know that light, just not from Kramer’s elevation. I’ve driven into it past sunset on the high plains as the threat of thunderstorms passes."
"Kramer’s light feels more northern European than Italian. When she goes rosy it is as if seen through a northern lens, like Richter’s reworking of Titian’s Annunciation. To my mind the models for her light are Richter and, going further back, Caspar David Freiderich. There is a coolness to her palette that allows her to observe. But her love of seriality and small scale (the better to open up once the eye is inside) can be attributed in major part to the influence of Morandi, whose infinitude is in his always offstage light. Her other model for seriality is Agnes Martin, who grew up on the Canadian plains (Kramer grew up in Iowa), and whose comparatively bleached squares are much more abstract while reminding us of far horizons and evanescent light."
"In the installation grouping, short rows of paintings recall passenger windows on a small craft airplane. Look into each one. You’ll see the mineral glint of pigment like ground jewels become skies you remember as if from a dream, and then you’ll see paint again, brushed into itself with an incredibly sensitive, feathery touch. You’ll watch meteorological weather become emotional weather. You might find yourself eager to paint."
- Stephen Westfall