Exploring the relationship between figuration and abstraction, Anne Neely (b. 1946) evokes uncharted territories and imagined landscapes. The National Gallery of Art
has acquired Aftermath (2021), a radiant canvas of poured paint and bold gestures with jewel-like passages. Aftermath joins two prints by Neely already in the National Gallerys collection.
Aftermath features a glowing sky created by layers of blue, pink, and gray paint applied by a combination of pouring and spattering. The resulting effect recalls the drama of the aurora borealis or perhaps (as the title suggests) nuclear fallout or the effects of climate change. This mood is underscored by the absence of any human presence, with only the tangled black marks surmounting a wall suggesting evidence of civilization. The brick wall in Aftermath not only references one of the favored motifs of Philip Guston, an influential artist for Neely, but also her own sense of national turmoil and peril. She has said, "Aftermath came in late summer/early fall 2021 and I thought perhaps I would get all 'the troubles' [of our country] out of my system with that painting, but it only made me hunger to paint more interpretations of what was happening because I had found a way, a language to say it, with that collapsing structure. Aftermath became a different kind of beauty that encompassed another more frightening reality. An abiding concern for Neely has been climate change, in particular the threats to the coastal areas in the Northeast where she lives and works, which culminated in Water Stories Project, a 2014 exhibition of several large canvases at the Museum of Science, Boston.
Her work is held by major museums, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Hammer Museum at UCLA, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.