In these confident compositions, Aronson-Shore refines and clarifies her work’s smooth color planes and clean geometric lines. Combined with a sure sense of shifting color-warmth, hue, and intensity, the angular edges and planes amid glowing colors at times lend a faceted, gem-like quality to the work.
The core of this exhibition of Aronson-Shore’s paintings comprises 20 square-format landscapes paired by seasons. “Across the Piscataqua in Fall” (a view of Badger’s Island) counterpoints rich autumnal ambers and buttery tangerines with the Dutch blue and eggshell of winter. Likewise, a “golden section” of sunlit houses in the city’s South End, crisp and dry in a fall painting, reappears snow-muffled and nearly windowless in its wintry counterpart. The pairings can be very striking in their own right: a supple cherry tree against a sunlit stretch of colonial architecture vibrantly pink in spring, indigo-shadowed after the snow has come.
The seasonally paired paintings are never mirror-copies of each other, though. You can glance from one to the other and see the sun or snow appear and disappear on the same wall, railing, or roofline. But while the scene is the same, the paintings diverge. In “Winter Angles of Light” and “Summer Angles of Light,” for example, a variation in scale changes the terms of the relationships between verticals, diagonals, and horizontals and the corresponding positive and negative spaces. The reason no two compositions are the same speaks to one of Aronson-Shore’s strengths as a painter; it’s that she knows, to remain fresh and alive, each work must inevitably become a whole unto itself, organically composed of a similar but different sets of harmonious relationships – change one thing and you change everything. The paintings’ titles remind us of the formal concerns governing their making.
As she describes it, Aronson-Shore’s formative years, spent in Chicago, were steeped in the rhythmic play of light and shadow. “I saw nature framed by horizontals and verticals and felt how mood and appearance changes as you move through the city,” the “cool, deep experience of shadow, then the brilliant light.” She began by painting the figure, but gradually removed the figure from her paintings, eventually allowing the buildings to some extent to stand in for them. The square format denies painting’s traditional “view through the window” orientation. Working in neither landscape nor portrait format helps to foreground underlying abstraction and allows the artist to see and treat the forms as visual elements to be upset and regained within the frame of a formal composition.
At first glance, high-key colors are everywhere. Shafts of sunlight strike the sides of houses or streak across a green or pale blue lawn. Yet, a closer look reveals that the vivid colors almost always comprise a relatively small portion of a quieter, more low-key whole comprised of neutralized colors and subdued value relationships. Color relationships, sometimes between near compliments, other times between color families, can often be harmonious and discordant in the same work, surprising the viewer with a turn from warm to cool or vice versa, as a red “talks to” a blue and a third thing, a mediating violet perhaps, emerges.
It is Aronson-Shore’s goal to make her visceral and emotional experience of color visible, which also means a pursuit of the intangible – mood, time, space, air, and memory (the works are sketched plein-air and re-imagined on a larger scale in the studio). Although she is an expert colorist (Aronson-Shore has taught university students Josef Albers’ color theories for years), it is sensation, the quality of experience, that drives her desire to create. Given time, each painting unfolds its own subtle sense of simplicity, order, and human emotion
Aronson-Shore’s paintings can seem deceptively simple, a bit like Wolf Kahn’s brightly colored New England barns and landscape arrangements. While their color relationships are nuanced and anything but arbitrary, the paintings’ underlying geometry reveals a classical sense of balance and an unfussy complexity at work within the larger shapes that partition the whole.
In “Summer Geometry at Strawbery Banke” Aronson-Shore creates color vibration throughout the central motif by interweaving soft pink, blue, and violet shadows against the warm, canary clapboards of an historical building’s wall. Starting with the house’s far-right shadow side, Aronson-Shore reprises these colors abstractly in solid, upright shapes of higher intensity blue-violet, gold, and buff. A narrow dash of high-key red extends past the creamy triangle’s apex into a tilted pentagon that halts the rhythm. Despite all this intricacy, the painting reads remarkably simply: The eye climbs the left-hand tree shadows and slides through the successive geometric shapes of brighter and deeper color to be deflected back by contrary pinks and the level green foreground below.
In the painting’s wintry counterpart (“Winter Geometry at Strawbery Banke”), the same motion more subtly obtains, but this time a trellis stops us from traversing the clapboards. Here, the action shifts to the relationship between the sliding line of rooftops and an opposing diagonal shaft of light in the blue-violet snow. With its arabesque patterning (again in blue-violet, pink, and yellow) the introduction of that foreground vector of light literally underlines the interplay between warm-cool light and color at the painting’s core.
Viewers studying the seasonal paintings side by side will have the pleasure of discovering the myriad of ways in which the works reveal themselves in relation to each other. The upward reach of a vibrant coral tree in flower sheds light on the sweeping, circular composition in play when the branches are weighted down with powder-blue snow. The counterpoint between a series of candy-apple red walls and the brilliant cadmium-orange of a young sugar maple in “Fall Reds at Strawbery Banke” becomes all the more apparent when the “reds” of the trees disappear. Only then does the subject of “Winter Reds at Strawbery Banke” – namely, the relationships not among the trees but among the architectural forms – fully emerge.
Amid the back and forth, the “color of light” in these paintings flickers between worlds, from melon-pink, lemon-lime, peach, and pale gold, to mauve, lavender-violet, and cornflower blue. Yet always it remains a constant and stately pleasure for the eye.
To view works from this exhibition please click here.
-Christopher Volpe for The Banks Gallery