The Deep Blue Sea.

Water Garden, a new exhibition of paintings by area artist Susan Schuler opened this past weekend (April 29, 2011) at the Malton Gallery.  Schuler has gained a reputation for her brash palette and a gestural approach to painting that echo’s what critic Clement Greenberg once referred to as “the tenth street touch”.  As a devotee of mid-century abstraction, the painter wears her influences well.  Glimpses of Hoffman, Diebenkorn, Motherwell, and in particular, de Kooning, are pervasive throughout her work, but Schuler manages to get away without ever looking too much like any one of them.

In her newest body of paintings, an exploration of the life sub-aquatic, Schuler broadens her formal vocabulary to include an emphasis on organic and biomorphic forms, creating her most individualized work to date.  Though Water Garden also finds the artist working in an elongated vertical format, Schuler’s strength is in her square canvases.  In The Everglades, the standout piece of the show, Schuler handles the notoriously challenging format with ease.  In contrast to works like The Wetlands and The Water is Life series, The Everglades presents a more restrained, but no less energetic surface. On it, her signature brushstroke is replaced by crisp shapes and patterns that rise and fall like ships on the swells.

Though Schuler is often regarded for her use of color, in Water Garden, she plays it safe.  No doubt to stress the picture’s aqueous origins, few of the works range far beyond the blue-green scale.  When she does, as in The Everglades and some of the Water Garden series (not to be confused with the title of the show) the paintings take on a precision and clarity not present in some of the looser compositions.

Finally, the extended format present in several of the pictures are problematic for Schuler. While lack of recognizable imagery and compositional hierarchy never perturb her square paintings, it’s debilitating to the vertical ones; without a horizon to guide the eye, these images squirm in all directions simultaneously, leaving the viewer without a firm visual ground to explore from.

Susan Schuler has been making her mark (no pun intended) on the greater Cincinnati art scene for the past several years.  If the works in Water Garden The Everglades in particular- are any indication, Schuler appears to be moving beyond her heroes and confidently towards an imaginative and unique visual language.

-Alan D Pocaro

Susan Schuler’s Water Garden is on view through May 28th at The Malton Gallery 3804 Edwards Road, Cincinnati, OH 45209.  513-321-8614. Tuesday-Saturday 11am-5pm.


6 Responses

  1. Saw the show on opening night and loved it. I especially liked the pieces with mixed media, which have so much texture. For those who are not familiar with Susan’s work, they should stop by the gallery for the experience of color. Even though Mr. Pocaro feels she was restrained, there is plenty of color to see in this exhibit. Imagine when she is not restrained!

  2. I flew out from California for the show and loved it. The color, texture, and shapes in Susan’s work took me into the depths of water and the heights of sky. Looking at at the eight panels I could see the movement, the push and pull of underwater life. Water Garden it truly a magical show and should not be missed.

  3. The opening of Water Garden was magnificent. Susan’t body of work stimulates the viewer to pause and examine her awe inspiring world of color and imagination. This show is a must see!

  4. I saw the show on opening night. Susan’s new works, while still abstract are with more definition. I love the way she continues to challenge and re-define her talents. It is a great body of works!

  5. The opening of Water Garden was fantastic. The colors and textures used by the artist grabs your attention and draws you in. It is a vibrant representation of life and should not be missed.

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