Review: Floyd Newsum
At Wade Wilson Art, Floyd Newsum presents his latest body of richly-hued, heavily-worked, densely-layered paintings. Many of the paintings are influenced by Newsum’s ongoing interest in the arts of Sirigu, a village in northern Ghana.
Throughout the exhibition, collaged elements abound. He includes scraps of newspaper, found photographs, and magazine clippings. Working in oil, oil pastel, and acrylics, Newsum has affixed broken and used sticks of pastel crayons to many of the pieces. A literalization of Thierry de Duve’s argument that since the emergence of industrialized pigments all paintings are readymade aided (“The Readymade and the Tube of Paint”)? Thankfully, no. But many works do incorporate art historical elements in interesting ways.
In particular, Sirigu Remembering Winter in Chicago Day recalls the interwoven webs of Jackson Pollock’s paintings from the mid-forties, just before he unleashed skeins of paint in his classic drip paintings. Heavy with impasto, Newsum’s orchestrated surfaces are divided as a vertical diptych, a white panel above, black below. Like Pollock’s advance of “all-overness,” an anti-compositional technique where no single part of the composition is privileged over another, Newsum introduces his own anti-compositional stance. Collaging additional resin-coated pictorial elements to the periphery of Remembering Winter, Newsum enlivens the margins of the composition.
Inspired by the view of the Great Lakes seen from his airplane window, Newsum created Lake Michigan. Structured like an opened Renaissance altarpiece—with the donor panels flanking the sides and a series of predella panels below—the central image is a panoramic triptych of pure cobalt blue. To animate the watery surface, Newsum has squeezed paint directly from the tube, pushing the media around with his thumb and leaving large globs to create a thick, encrusted surface.
The exhibition also includes a number of red and orange paintings, which allude to the artist’s personal history, specifically his father’s career as a fireman. Indeed, the palette recalls the varied hues of a raging fire. Ladders recur throughout these paintings, often as resin-coated paper constructions jutting out from the main canvas. In addition to ladders, Newsum favors other repeating motifs: roosters, dogs, and fish.
While Newsum is a strong painter, the exhibition is uneven. A number of the smaller works feature the near-encaustic painted paper affixed to much larger, un-stretched canvases stapled directly to the wall. The industrial staples don’t do much to mitigate the preciousness of the atavistic raw canvas conceit. Newsum handles the paint with confidence, his colors are solid, and his surfaces nicely built up. But as a whole, the exhibition is neither lackluster nor particularly compelling.
-ELLIOTT ZOOEY MARTIN