Below is a review  of Susanna Bluhm‘s  exhibit March Snow Of New York by Jen Graves.

Susanna Bluhm: March Snow of New York
by Jen Graves for The Stranger

SUSANNA BLUHM, Snowy Park with Log and Lumpy Green Thing, 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72 inches

SUSANNA BLUHM, Snowy Park with Log and Lumpy Green Thing, 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72 inches

Almost 100 years after it was made, Susanna Bluhm painted a righteous 1923 painting onto a New York City park bench in winter. The scene takes place not out in the real world but on one of Bluhm’s canvases. It’s a five-foot-tall oil and acrylic painting called Park Scene with Heap of Snow in Suzanne Valadon’s Lap. What we see is a stand of bare trees behind a park bench that’s only partly visible. Resting on the bench are a pair of crossed legs draped in flowy green-and-white-striped pants. To an art history nerd, those pants would be recognizable anywhere: They’re the ones worn in Suzanne Valadon’s 1923 self-portrait The Blue Room. Unlike the figures of Renoir, Degas, or Matisse (to Valadon, friends), Valadon’s women, even when nude, were less surfaces for looking and more vehicles for action. Bluhm doesn’t paint figures much—more expressionistic abstracted landscapes with “blobs” and “lumps” in them that she calls out directly in her titles. But in this new series, Susanna meets Suzanne, as well as other female artists whose work she either sees or sets in the landscape she finds in contemporary New York in winter. In 1923’s The Blue Room, the artist/model is clothed in those famously vivid pants and a pink camisole, a chunk of which also seems to appear on Bluhm’s bench. Valadon in her room is smoking and looking elsewhere; she’s not interested in talking. Her books are at her side. She may even be scratching her leg with her right arm. Bluhm deposits Valadon on the park bench with a pile of snow in her lap, which seems both funny and a chilly take on the ongoing role of women in painting. Throughout her scenes of hard, cold, icy New York, voluptuous shapes appear in stark but mysterious contrast. Some of them are disembodied red open mouths lined by shining-white teeth. There is much to see here, from abandon to rage. Meanwhile, fellow Seattle-based artist Samantha Scherer shares the gallery with Bluhm this month, and her work couldn’t be more materially opposite. Using great detail and super-tight draftsmanship in pencil, Scherer depicts large-scale disasters like car wrecks, overturned trailers, homes and airplanes and lives tossed and turned and mangled. While the scale of events is huge, the drawings are tiny. Each pencil-pile of disaster huddles in the center of an otherwise blank piece of square white paper, 8 by 8 inches. Compared to yodeling oil paints, these pencil marks whisper. Scherer calls the series Aerial, as in you can see the whole thing, but you know virtually nothing about what happened on the ground. Sounds familiar, right? Scherer creates irresistible little studies in emotional paralysis. JG

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