Color Blasts: The brilliant palettes of E. Ambrose Webster and Robin Gowen

  • September 03, 2009 18:19

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"Robin Gowen: The Corner of My Eye" is on view at Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, Calif., through Nov. 29.
Sullivan Goss Gallery

Punched-up, high-keyed, near-neon---the vivid tints employed by two painters, both of whom dabbled in unreal Fauvist colors reminiscent of Matisse and his contemporaries, are separated by a near-century but share a similarly memorable approach to landscape painting.

Contemporary artist Robin Gowen (b. 1957) grew up in New Hampshire and Nigeria. She now paints the American West in a wide spectrum of colors: sometimes subtle shades of lavender and green, with simple chiaroscuro; other times deep magenta juxtaposed with mustard yellow, in wide, thick brushtrokes that nearly jump from the canvas.

Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara, Calif., opened a new exhibiton of Gowen's latest work this week (Sept. 3 to Nov. 29). "Robin Gowen: The Corner of My Eye" consists of about thirty small paintings that the artist says "celebrate the simple joy of seeing."

Seeing once didn't come easy to Gowen. She was deemed legally blind as a child. After receiving her first glasses, she was astounded by details that she never saw before. Her poor eyesight had caused her to see the world in the abstract.

Gowen's visions of light and color are the major players in this exhibition. Some works are extensions of her central field of vision, including a prelude into photorealism. Gowen's stunning Fauvist-like paintings, with bright and bold brushwork, are representations from the corner of her eye where colors suggested by the landscapes are viewed in the periphery.

Works by E. Ambrose Webster were shown at New York's Babcock Galleries recently in the exhibition "Chasing the Sun."
Babcock Galleries

In a related video interview, the artist explains to gallery owner Frank Goss how her views of nature translate into her ever-evolving landscapes.

View a video of the Gowen interview here.

E. Ambrose Webster (1869-1935) was an American Fauve with stylistic versatility like Gowen. He began with a dark palette of academic influence, was bowled over by the Impressionists after a trip to France, exhibited at the momentous 1913 Armory Show, and developed his signature wildy colorful Fauvist palette in the 1910s and 20s. Later, he moved towards modernism.

Webster's Fauve colors consist of an eye-popping rainbow of deep purples, bright yellows, cyan, and deep greens that also make up the high contrasts in some of Gowen's work.

A privately-owned collection of his work was unveiled at New York's Babcock Galleries last year. "Chasing the Sun" showed his bright renditions of the Azores, Bermuda, Provincetown, and snow-covered New Hampshire.

Thomas Hoving on ArtnetTV perfectly described Webster's work as "the wild beast." Hoving said, "The essence of his work is scintillating light and color."

View a video of the Webster exhibition here.


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