Denny Gallery, NY, now presenting Judy Ledgerwood's exhibition 'Sunny'

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Denny Gallery, NY, now presenting Judy Ledgerwood's exhibition 'Sunny'
Judy Ledgerwood, Skylarking, 2022. Oil on canvas. Images courtesy of Denny Gallery and the artist.

NEW YORK, NY.- Denny Gallery recently opened 'Sunny', a solo exhibition of new work by painter Judy Ledgerwood. On view at the gallery’s New York location since January 7, it will continue to February 11, 2023.

Ledgerwood is a renowned painter whose work has featured in numerous international exhibitions and is included in prominent public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, IL, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Hammer Museum Los Angeles and the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen Switzerland, among others.

Ledgerwood has often employed the signifying aspects of color as a primary factor in her work, and a desire for a shared language of color drives this exhibition. In the last few years, the artist has felt the world becoming increasingly fragmented which leaves less room for group cohesion. The feeling of growing disconnect experienced through politics and culture is oppressive and gloomy. The title “Sunny” is born from a dual ideology of seeking brightness through the bleak and investigating how we bond through what we share, for the sun is an unchanging force that all experience. It is there for everyone. Moving further into the quest for connection and coherence, Ledgerwood has selected a color palette for this body of work that any child could name. The syntax of red, yellow and blue interspersed with black and white, recalls the legacy of the Bauhaus which shares with Ledgerwood a concern for understanding visual literacy through color and eliminating the distinction between fine art and craft without compromising the subjectivity of the viewer.

Despite the perceived simplicity of the color palette and determination of equality in purpose, the work is groundbreaking and full of subtext. It confronts the viewer using bright colors as a way to find common ground while unsettling the viewing experience in how the colors are combined with pattern and texture. Using her familiar visual lexicon of the quatrefoil with its equal parts of four layered circles, set within striking grid or diamond formations, she looks to an aesthetic language that people associate with her work and practice. Her selected shapes are embedded with meaning relating to gender and myth: “The chevron pattern is said to represent a woman’s opened thighs and readiness for conception. A triangle pointing upward represents a strong foundation or stability, rooted to the ground through a solid base. Triangles that point up symbolize male energy. The downward-pointing triangle represents female energy. Quatrefoils look like flowers which makes the shape both problematic and appealing because the shape is so weighted with multiple cultural meanings.” -Judy Ledgerwood, 2022.

Ledgerwood is notably linked to the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s and 80s and its relationship to traditional female and non-Western art practices, crafts and mythical symbols. Her focus on these female motifs and ciphers as a repeat vocabulary gives her the foundations to test and explore the medium of paint in depth, thickness and fluidity. Each painting follows the modern form of the grid which Ledgerwood looks to disrupt through gesture, materiality of paint and mark- making, as well as her use of color. The works become simultaneously illusion and anti-illusion, where the eye is tricked by the movement of mark to color; a tension arises as space is manipulated through motif and interstice. This continues through her decision to work over the edges to consume even more of the surrounding space. To address this expanse both in and outside of the paintings and into the sphere of sculpture through her ceramic work, brings into focus two other key elements within Ledgerwood’s work and practice: space and its relationship to flatness. Her exploration of surface, and its dimensionality through applied paint, allow the works to starkly encounter their surroundings. They interact and start to manipulate the relationship between viewer, artwork and space. “...the pattern throughout the field advances. Colors flood off walls, washing over neighboring walls and viewers. One becomes a passive element within an immersive experience that terminates in the isolated experience of viewing an individual work.” -Philip Vanderhyden, ‘Who’s Afraid of Flowers?’, from Judy Ledgerwood, ed. Christa Herausgeber and Wolfgang Häusler, (Hatje Cantz, 2009) p. 139.

The few elements Ledgerwood employs to engage become significant in addressing both an academic investigation in paint and ideological ambitions to create a vocabulary in painting that resonates across different social and cultural factions. Ledgerwood heralds color as the conduit. Its cohesive functions open a door for equity in viewing but also pose challenges in subjective opinion. We all have a right to color and our own unique viewership and understanding of what it stands for.

“When it rains, it rains on everyone; for the sun it’s the same.”
- Judy Ledgerwood

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